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"Shiloh is the best novel of the Civil War I have 
ever read. This is a remarkable achievement . . . 
a work of art." Van Allen Bradley 

Chicago Daily News 

The "hero" of this novel is a battle, Bloody 
Shiloh, fought in early April 1 862, and the story 
is told through the eyes of the men who were 
there, alternately Union and Confederate, dis- 
posed around the field, so that the two-day 
action is covered from side to side, flank to 
flank, in steady chronology. The reader, when 
he finishes, will have lived through one of the 
really important crises of our nation: he will 
have been at Shiloh. 

Shiloh was received with great critical acclaim 
when first published over two decades ago. To- 
day it is regarded as a classic of Civil War 

"Each section of this book is excellent in its own 
right imaginative, powerful, filled with precise 
visual details. A brilliant book." 

OrviUe Prescott 
The New York Times 

The nearest thing of its kind to Crane's Red 
Badge of Courage that has ever appeared!" 

Hudson Strode 


o 0001 





Also by Shelby Foote 










S^r a novel by 


Random House New Ibrk 

Copyright 1952 by Shelby Foote 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American 

Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by 

Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada 

by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. 

First published by The Dial Press, New York. 


Foote, Shelby. 


Reprint of the ed. published by Dial Press, New York. 

I. Shiloh, Battle of, 1862 Fiction. I. Title. 

[PZ3.F?39i8Sh9l [PS351 1.0348] 8i3'-5'4 

ISBN 0-3 94-40873 -X 76-13221 

Manufactured in the United States of America 




1 Lieutenant Palmer Metcalf e 
Aide-de-Camp, Johnston's Staff i 

2 Captain Walter Fountain 

Adjutant, 53d Ohio 31 

3 Private Luther Dade 

Rifleman, 6th Mississippi 61 

4 Private Otto Flickner 

Cannoneer, ist Minnesota Battery 95 

5 Sergeant Jefferson Polly 

Scout, Forrest's Cavalry 127 

6 Squad 

23d Indiana 161 

7 Palmer Metcalf e 

Unattached 193 

Note 223 

The sky had cleared, the clouds raveled to tatters, 
and at four oclock the sun broke through, silver on 
the bright green of grass and leaves and golden on 
the puddles in the road; all down the column men 
quickened the step, smiling in the sudden burst of gold 
and silver weather. They would point at the sky, the 
shining fields, and call to each other: the sun, the sun! 
Their uniforms, which had darkened in the rain, began 
to steam in the April heat, and where formerly they 
had slogged through the mud, keeping their eyes 
down on the boots or haversack of the man ahead, 
now they began to look around and even dance aside 
with little prancing steps to avoid the wet places. As 
we rode past at the side of the road, they cheered and 
called out to us: "You better keep up there! Dont get 
left behind!" Replacing their hats from cheering the 
general, they jeered at me especially, since I was the 



youngest and brought up the rear. "Jog on, sonny. If 
you lose him youli never find him again! " 

This was mainly a brown country, cluttered with 
dead leaves from the year before, but the oaks had 
tasseled and the redbud limbs were like flames in the 
wind. Fruit trees in cabin yards, peach and pear and 
occasional quince, were sheathed with bloom, white 
and pink, twinkling against broken fields and random 
cuts of new grass washed clean by the rain. Winding 
over and among the red clay hills, the column had 
strung out front and rear, accordion action causing it 
to clot in places and move spasmodically in others, as 
if the road itself had come alive, had been sowed with 
the dragon teeth of olden time, and was crawling like 
an enormous snake toward Pittsburg Landing. 

Seen that way, topping a rise and looking back and 
forward, it was impersonal: an army in motion, so 
many inspissated tons of flesh and bone and blood and 
equipment: but seen from close, the mass reduced to 
company size in a short dip between two hills, it was 
not that way at all. I could see their faces then, and 
the army became what it really was: forty thousand 
men they were young men mostly, lots of them even 
younger than myself, and I was nineteen just two 
weeks before out on their first march in the crazy 
weather of early April, going from Mississippi into 
Tennessee where the Union army was camped be- 


tween two creeks with its back to a river, inviting 
destruction. This was the third day out, and their 
faces showed it. Rain and mud, particularly where 
artillery and wagon trains had churned the road, had 
made the march a hard one. Their faces were gay now 
in the sunlight, but when you looked close you saw 
the sullen lines of strain about the mouths and the 
lower eyelids etched with fatigue. 

We had doubled back down the column all morning, 
then retraced, and as we approached the crossroads a 
few hundred yards west of last night's headquarters 
we saw General Beauregard standing in one of the 
angles of a rail fence, talking with two of the corps 
commanders, Generals Bragg and Polk. Beauregard 
was wagging his head, his big sad bloodhound eyes 
rimmed with angry red and his hands fluttering. He 
was obviously upset, which was understandable, for 
it was ten hours past the time when we should have 
been pressing them back against the river. 

When we rode up they turned and waited for Gen- 
eral Johnston to speak, and when he had greeted them 
with that careful courtesy he always used, Beauregard 
began to repeat what he had been saying to the others. 
He favored canceling the movement, returning to 
Corinth. Just hearing him say it, I suddenly felt tired 
all over. 

"There is no chance for surprise," he said, shaking 


his head and shragging his shoulders with that French 
way he had. "Theyll be intrenched to the eyes." 

General Johnston looked at him for a moment with- 
out saying anything, then turned to Bishop Polk (they 
had roomed together at West Point) and asked what 
he thought. Men in the passing column turned their 
heads, watching, but they did not cheer because they 
could see this was a conference. The bishop said his 
troops were eager for battle; they had left Corinth on 
the way to a fight, he said, and if they didnt find one 
they would be as demoralized as if they had been 
whipped. He said it in that deep, pulpit voice of his; 
it was as if I could hear his vestments rustle; it sounded 
fine. General Bragg said he felt the same way about 
it he would as soon be defeated as return without 
fighting. General Breckinridge, commander of the 
reserve, rode up while Bragg was speaking. He lifted 
his eyebrows, surprised that withdrawal was even 
being considered; he sided with Bragg and Bishop 
Polk. General Hardee was the only corps commander 
not present, but there was no doubt which side he 
would favor: Hardee was always spoiling for a fight. 

When General Johnston had heard them out, he 
drew himself up in the saddle, leather creaking, and 
said quietly: "Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight 
tomorrow." It was as if a weight had been lifted from 
my shoulders and I could breathe. He told them to 



form their corps according to the order and to have 
the troops sleep on their arms in line of battle. As he 
pulled his horse aside, passing me, he spoke to Colonel 

"I would fight them if they were a million," he said. 
"They can present no greater front between those two 
creeks than we can, and the more men they crowd in 
there, the worse we can make it for them." 

I never knew anyone who did not think immediately 
that General Johnston was the finest-looking man he 
had ever seen, and everyone who ever knew him loved 
him. He was a big man, well over six feet tall and close 
to two hundred pounds in weight, neither fat nor lean; 
he gave at once an impression of strength and gentle- 
ness. His expression was calm as we rode away, but his 
eyes were shining. 

That was as it should be. For this was his hour of 
vindication after two months of retreat and ugly talk 
which had followed adulation. When he crossed the 
desert from California in '61, dodging Apaches and 
Federal squadrons from cavalry posts along the way, 
and started north for Richmond from New Orleans, 
he was hailed as the savior of liberty, and when he 
reported to President Davis in September he was 
appointed General Commanding the Western Depart- 
ment of the Army of the Confederate States of Amer- 
ica a long title responsible for maintaining the 



integrity of a line which stretched from Virginia to 
Kansas along the northern frontier of our new nation. 
That was a lot of line, but no one then, so far as I ever 
heard, doubted his ability to do whatever was required 
of him. This was largely because they did not know 
what forces he had to do it with. 

He had twenty thousand poorly organized, poorly 
equipped troops to defend the area between the moun- 
tains of eastern Kentucky and the Mississippi River. 
By January he had managed to double that number, 
disposing them this way: Polk on the left at Columbus 
opposing Grant, Hardee in the center at Bowling 
Green opposing Sherman, and Zollicoff er on the right 
at Cumberland Gap opposing Thomas. At each of 
these points his commanders were outnumbered two 
and three to one. Hoping to hold off the Federal offen- 
sive so that he would have more time to build and 
shape his army, he announced that his situation was 
good, that he had plenty of troops, and that he had 
no fears about holding his ground. His statements were 
printed in all the papers, North and South. These were 
high times, everyone still drunk on Manassas and 
politicians talking about whipping the enemy with 
cornstalks and the only disagreement among our peo- 
ple back home was whether one Southern volunteer 
was worth ten Yankee hirelings or a dozen ten was 
the figure most frequently quoted, for people's minds 



ran mostly to round numbers in those days. The gen- 
eral must have known that reverses were coming, and 
he must have known too that, when they came, the 
people would not understand. 

They came soon enough. First, in mid-January at 
Fishing Creek, his right caved in: Zollicoffer himself 
was killed when he rode out front in a white rubber 
raincoat he lay in a fence corner, muddy and dead, 
while Union soldiers pulled hairs from his mustache 
for souvenirs, and his army was broken and scattered 
deep into Tennessee, demoralized. Early next month 
Fort Henry fell to Grant's attack, and ten days later 
Fort Donelson. Bowling Green was evacuated then, 
outflanked, and Nashville was left to the enemy, the 
first real Southern city to be lost. People were out- 
raged. They had been expecting an advance, and now 
within a month everything had changed; Kentucky 
and Tennessee were being abandoned without a fight. 
They yelled for the general's scalp. But when the Ten- 
nessee representatives in Richmond went into the 
President's office to demand that he dismiss the Con- 
federate commander in the West, Mr Davis told them: 
"If Sidney Johnston is not a general, we had better 
give up the war, for we have no general," and bowed 
them out. 

That was low ebb, but General Johnston took the 
blame just as he had taken the praise. He knew that the 


only way to regain public favor was to give the nation 
a victory, and he knew that the only way to halt the 
Federal advance was to concentrate and strike. He 
chose Corinth, a railroad junction in North Mississippi, 
near the Tennessee River, as the place to group his 
armies. Grant, he believed, would try to break the 
Memphis & Charleston Railroad, which ran through 
Corinth, whenever Buell reinforced him. General 
Johnston planned to destroy Grant before Buell came 
up, after which he would attend to Buell. It was that 

So Polk fell back from Columbus, leaving a strong 
garrison at Island Number 10, and Bragg came up 
from Pensacola and Ruggles from New Orleans, and 
Van Dorn was told to march from Arkansas and cross 
the river near Memphis he was expected any day. 
Grant's army was in camp at Pittsburg Landing, on 
the near bank of the Tennessee River about twenty 
miles from Corinth. While General Johnston was con- 
centrating, scouts and spies brought him full reports 
on Grant's strength and dispositions. He knew what 
he would find at Pittsburg: an army no larger than his 
own, with its back to the river, unfortified the only 
digging they did was for straddle trenches hemmed 
in by boggy creeks, disposed for comfort, and scat- 
tered the peacetime way. He went on with his plans; 
he would strike as soon as possible. 



By the end of March we were almost ready. The 
Army of the Mississippi (Beauregard had named it) 
was divided into four corps: 10,000 under Polk, 16,000 
under Bragg, 7000 under Hardee, and 7000 under 
Breckinridge. We were as strong as Grant and stronger 
than BuelL Everything was set except for the delay 
of Van Dorn, who had run into some trouble getting 
transportation across the river. We waited. On the 
second of April, Polk sent word that one of the enemy 
divisions was advancing from the river heading for 
Memphis maybe, we thought, though later we found 
this was not true and that night a cavalry scout re- 
ported that Buell's army was marching hard from 
Columbia to join Grant. Within two hours of the time 
the scout reached headquarters General Johnston or- 
dered the advance on Pittsburg Landing. Van Dorn 
or no Van Dorn, the march would begin Thursday 
and we would strike Grant at daybreak Saturday, 
April fifth. 

I worked all Wednesday night with Colonel Jordan, 
assistant adjutant general on Beauregard's staff, pre- 
paring the march order. We used the opening section 
of Napoleon's Waterloo order as a guide there was 
always plenty of material about Napoleon wherever 
Beauregard pitched his tent. First we sent out a warn- 
ing note for all commanders to have their troops as- 
sembled for the march with three days' cooked rations 



in their haversacks. Then the colonel hunched over 
the map with a sheaf of notes General Beauregard had 
written for him to follow. It wasnt much map, really; 
when I first looked at it, all I saw was a wriggle of lines 
and a welter of longhand notations, some of them even 
written upside-down. But as the colonel went on dic- 
tating it became simple enough, and after a while it 
even became clear. I didnt know which I admired the 
most, Napoleon or Colonel Jordan. I was proud to be 
working with him. 

Two roads ran from Corinth up to Pittsburg. On 
the map they resembled a strung bow, with the two 
armies at the top and bottom tips. The southern route, 
through Monterey, was the string; the northern route, 
through Mickey's, was the bow. Bragg and Breckin- 
ridge were to travel the string, Hardee and Polk the 
bow. Beyond Mickey's, within charging distance of 
the Federal outposts, they were to form for battle in 
successive lines, Hardee across the front with one 
brigade from Bragg, who was to form the second line 
five hundred yards in rear. Polk was to march half a 
mile behind Bragg, supporting him, and Breckinridge 
was to mass the reserve corps in Folk's rear. The flanks 
of the army, with the three lead corps extended in- 
dividually across the entire front, rested on the two 
creeks which hemmed Grant in. As we advanced, each 
line would support the line in front and the reserve 



corps would feed troops from the rear toward those 
points where resistance was stiffest. That way, the 
Federal army would be jammed into the northward 
loop of the creek on the left, or back against the Ten- 
nessee itself. 

It was the first battle order I had ever seen, and it 
certainly seemed complicated. But once you under- 
stood what it was saying, it was simple enough. I had 
had a share in composing it, watching it grow from 
notes and discussion into what it finally became: a 
simple list of instructions which, if followed, would 
result in the annihilation of an army that had come 
with arrogance into our country to destroy us and 
deny our people their independence: but even though 
Fd watched it grow line by line, myself supplying the 
commas and semicolons which made it clearer, when 
it was complete I could look at it as if it had been done 
without my help; and it was so good, so beautifully 
simple, it made me catch my breath. It did occur to 
me, even then, that all battle orders did this they 
would all result in victory if they were followed. But 
this one seemed so simple, somehow so right, that I 
began to understand how Shakespeare must have felt 
when he finished Macbeth, even if I had only supplied 
the punctuation. Colonel Jordan was proud of it, too: 
I believe he really thought it was better than the one 


by Napoleon he had used as a model, though of course 
he didnt say so. 

It worked so well on paper the flat, clean paper. 
On paper, in the colonel's lamp-lit office, when we saw 
a problem it was easy to fix; all we had to do was 
direct that corps commanders regulate their columns 
so as not to delay each other, halting until crossroads 
were cleared, keeping their files well closed, and so 
forth. It didnt work out that way on the ground, 
which was neither flat nor clean nor, as it turned 
out, dry. The troops were green. Most of them had 
never been on a real tactical march before, and many 
of them received their arms for the first time when 
they assembled in their camps that Thursday morning; 
frequently, during halts, I saw sergeants showing re- 
cruits how to load their muskets the regulation way. 
They were in high spirits, advancing on an enemy 
who for the past three months had been pushing us 
steadily backward over hundreds of miles of our own 
country, and they marched with a holiday air, carry- 
ing their muskets like hunters, so that the column 
bristled with gunbarrels glinting at jaunty angles like 
pins in a cushion. 

I stood with General Johnston beside the road and 
watched them go past, men of all ages and from all 
sections of the country, wearing homemade uniforms, 
many of them, and carrying every kind of firearm, 


from modern Springfields and Enfields, back to 
smoothbore flintlock muskets which were fired last in 
the War of 1 8 1 2. When the pth Texas swung past, we 
saw an elderly private who marched with the firm 
step of the oldtime regular. He was singing. 

"Ive shot at many a Mexican 
And many a Injun too 
But I never thought Fd draw a bead 
On Yankee-Doodle-Do." 

The general turned to me with a smile. He too was 
marching against the flag he had served most of his 
life. During the period when he was being hailed as the 
savior of liberty there were page-long biographies of 
him in all the newspapers, but they were as full of 
errors as they were of praise. I know because I had 
the true story from my father, who spent many a 
night beside a campfire with him down in Texas. 

Albert Sidney Johnston had just passed his fifty- 
ninth birthday at the time of the battle. He was born 
in Kentucky, the youngest son of a doctor. After two 
years at Transylvania University he went to West 
Point. He was nineteen, older than most of the cadets 
and more serious. Leonidas Polk, the future bishop- 
general, was his roommate. Jefferson Davis, who also 
had followed him at Transylvania, was two classes 
below him. Johnston graduated high in his class and 



thus was privileged to choose his branch of service. He 
declined a position as aide to General Scott and chose 
the infantry. That was characteristic, as youll see 
sometimes he behaved like a man in search of death, 

While he was a young lieutenant, stationed at Jef- 
ferson Barracks, he attended a ball in St Louis where 
he met the girl he married a year later. She was from 
Louisville, and I have heard my father say she had the 
loveliest singing voice he ever heard. In the spring and 
summer of 1832 she stayed home with her parents 
while her husband went to fight in the Black Hawk 
War. When he returned he found her dying. Physi- 
cians pronounced her lungs weak, bled her freely and 
often, and put her on a diet of goat's milk and Iceland 

Johnston resigned from the army and came home 
to nurse her. That was 1833, the year the stars fell. In 
late summer of the second year she died. After her 
death he retired to a farm near St Louis where they 
had intended to live when he left the army. But life 
was intolerable there, too filled with memories of the 
things they had planned together. It was at this time 
that he heard Stephen Austin speak in Louisville and 
threw in with the Texas revolutionists. 

He joined as a private trooper but soon he was ap- 
pointed adjutant general. When he was made com- 
mander of the Texas army and proceeded to his post, 



he found that Felix Huston, who was serving as acting 
commander Old Leather Britches, he was called 
felt that being superseded was an affront he couldnt 
abide with honor. Though he did not blame Johnston 
personally, he decided his only redress was to chal- 
lenge him to a duel He sent Johnston the following 
note: / really esteem your character, & know that you 
must be sensible of the delicacy of my situation. 1 
therefore propose a meeting between us, in as short a 
period as you can make convenient. 

Johnston replied: A]ter reciprocating the sentiments 
of respect and esteem which you have been pleased to 
express toward me, it only remains to accord you the 
meeting proposed. I have designated 7 o'clock, a.m., 
tomorrow and signed it: Your most obedient serv- 
ant, A. S. Johnston. 

He had the choice of weapons, by the code, but as 
there were no dueling pistols available and as Huston 
had no experience with rapiers, with which Johnston 
himself was an expert, he agreed to use Huston's horse 
pistols. They were hair-trigger weapons: Huston had 
a reputation for being able to light matches with them 
at fifty feet. So Johnston watched Huston's trigger 
finger and every time Huston was about to line up 
the sights, Johnston would fire without taking aim, 
causing Huston's finger to twitch and the shot to go 
astray. After five wild shots Huston was boiling mad; 


it had passed beyond a mere question of Honor now 
his skill as a marksman was being ridiculed. Years 
later my father, who was one of the seconds, said it 
would have been highly comical if it hadnt been 
deadly serious. Huston finally managed to steady him- 
self, angry as he was, and put the sixth shot into 
Johnston's hip. 

After a slow and painful five weeks spent recovering 
from the wound, during which time Texas won her 
independence, Johnston served as Secretary of War 
in the cabinet. About this time he married a young 
cousin of his first wife mainly, my father said, to 
have someone to mother his children. His share in the 
Mexican War was limited by politics, but he fought 
at the Battle of Monterey under Zachary Taylor, 
whom he much admired. My father was there too and 
told me afterwards that Johnston fought in the garb 
of a typical Texan, wearing a red flannel shirt and blue 
jean pants, a checkered coat and a wide-awake hat; 
but I was never able to imagine him dressed that way, 
no matter how hard I tried. 

After the war he retired to China Grove plantation 
in Brazoria County, enjoying life with his family, until 
in late '49 he was recalled into the U, S. Army by old 
General Taylor, who had been elected President Sk 
years later, Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War under 
Franklin Pierce, gave him command of the newly or- 



ganized zd Cavalry, and he spent the next two years 
fighting Indians on the frontier. Robert E. Lee was his 
lieutenant colonel, William Hardee and George 
Thomas his majors. In the late 'jos he led his troops 
against the Mormons out in Utah, and when he 
returned east in 1860, brevetted brigadier, he was ap- 
pointed to command on the Pacific Coast, with head- 
quarters at Fort Alcatraz near San Francisco. When 
Texas seceded he crossed the desert with thirty pro- 
Southerners and became the ranking field general on 
the active Confederate list. After him came Lee, Joe 
Johnston (no kin) and Beauregard. 

That was his life, and it was a simple one. He knew 
disappointments, including the death of the one he 
loved most in the world, had a conspicuous share in a 
successful revolution, and knew the humdrum life of 
a country farmer. Then, at a time when he had every 
right to think he was through with war and the call of 
glory, he found himself at storm center of the greatest 
event of his country's history. At first there had been 
praise. Then had come vilification. And now, standing 
beside the road and watching his troops start out on 
their march against the army that had pushed him 
back three hundred miles while the clamor of the 
South rang in his ears, accusing him of incompetence 
and even treason, there was satisfaction for himself 
and justification in the eyes of the people. 



The weather was clear, not a cloud In the sky when 
the march began. Regiment by regiment the army 
lurched into column, rifles dressed at right shoulder 
shift and the men stepping out smartly, lifting their 
knees as if on parade. Then the rain began. At first it 
didnt bother them, not even the abrupt, thunderous 
showers of Mississippi in April; but soon the wheels 
of the wagons and the artillery had churned the road 
into shin-deep mud, and after the first dozen laughs at 
men who slipped and sprawled, it began to wear 
thin. There were halts and unaccountable delays, times 
when they had to trot to keep up, and times more 
frequent when they stood endlessly in the rain, wait- 
ing for the man ahead to stumble into motion. The 
new muskets grew heavy; haversack straps began to 
cut their shoulders, and there was less laughter and 
more cursing as the time wore past. Friday, when I 
approached the column from the rear, the road was 
littered with discarded equipment, extra boots, sabers 
and bowie knives, overcoats, Bibles and playing-cards. 
At one point, four miles out, there was a steel vest 
thrown into a fence corner, already flecked with rust 
but gleaming like old silver in the rain. 

All that day as I moved along the column I came 
upon regiments halted beside the road, the troops 
leaning on their rifles while the commanding general's 
address was read to them by their colonels. General 



Johnston had written it Wednesday night in Corinth 

while we were composing the battle order. 

Soldiers of the Army of the Mississippi: 
I have put you in motion to offer battle to the in- 
vaders of your country. With the resolution md dis- 
cipline and valor becoming men fighting, as you are, 
for all worth living or dying for, you can but march 
to a decisive victory over the agrarian mercenaries sent 
to subjugate you and to despoil you of your liberties, 
your property, and your honor. Remember the pre- 
cious stake Involved; remember the dependence of 
your mothers, your wives, your sisters, and your chil- 
dren, on the result; remember the fair, broad, abound- 
ing land, and the happy homes that would be desolated 
by your defeat. 

The eyes and hopes of eight millions of people rest 
upon you; you are expected to show yourselves worthy 
of your lineage, worthy of the women of the South, 
whose noble devotion in this war has never been ex- 
ceeded in any time. With such incentives to brave 
deeds, and with the trust that God is with us, your 
generals will lead you confidently to the combat as- 
sured of success. 

A. S. JOHNSTON, General commanding. 

I heard it delivered in all styles, ranging from the 
oratorical, with flourishes, to the matter-of-fact, de- 



pending on the colonel Many of them had been public 
men, and these made the most of the occasion, adding 
remarks of their own and pausing between sentences 
and phrases for the applause of their men, particularly- 
after "women of the South" which was good for a 
yell every time. But generally speaking the result was 
the same: the troops cheered politely, lifting their 
hats, then fell back into ranks to continue the march. 

Bragg had almost as many men as the other three 
commanders put together. Marching all day Friday, 
he made just six miles, so he had to send word for 
Hardee to wait for him beyond the crossroads where 
their columns would converge. It must have galled 
him to have to send that message, for when I carried 
a dispatch to him that night at his roadside camp he 
was hopping mad. He was not yet fifty, a tall gangling 
man made ferocious-looking by thick bushy eyebrows 
which grew in a continuous line across the bottom of 
his forehead. He was a West Pointer, a hero of the 
Mexican War, and his troops were acknowledged to 
be the best-drilled in our army. 

They got that way because of the strictness of his 
discipline. I heard once that one of his soldiers 
attempted to assassinate him not long after the Mexican 
War by exploding a twelve-pound shell under his 
cot, and I believe it, for there were men in his corps 
on the present campaign who would go that far in 



their hatred of him; or at least they said they would. 
Anyhow, he left the army about that time and came to 
Louisiana and became a sugar planter in Terre Bonne 
parish and I heard he made a good one. I never knew 
him down there, but I used to hear my father speak 
of him. Indeed, his name was known everywhere 
because of what old Rough~and-Ready Taylor was 
supposed to have said to him at Buena Vista: "A little 
more grape, Captain Bragg," though later I heard my 
father tell that what General Taylor really said was 
"Captain, give 'em hell." When Louisiana went out of 
the Union he was put in command of her volunteer 
forces, and later President Davis appointed him 
brigadier general and sent him to Pensacola to be in 
charge of Confederate troops down there. He had a 
reputation for firmness in everything. If his men didnt 
love him, at least they respected him as a soldier, and 
I believe Bragg preferred it that way. 

Hardee waited, as Bragg had requested, and it was 
late Saturday evening before all the troops were in 
position to attack. No wonder Beauregard wanted to 
go back and start all over again: in his mind, surprise 
was everything, and he had good cause to believe that 
the enemy knew we were there. When the rain let 
up the men began to worry about the dampness of the 
powder in their rifles; but instead of drawing the 
charges and reloading, they tested them by snapping 



the triggers as they marched. All Saturday evening 
there was an intermittent banging of muskets up and 
down the column, as rackety as a sizeable picket 

And that wasnt all. When the sun came out, their 
spirits rose; everything that had been pent up in them 
during three days of marching and waiting in the rain 
came out with the sun. They began to shoot at birds 
and rabbits along the road. West of Mickey's, within 
two miles of the Federal outposts, I watched an entire 
regiment bang away at a little five-point buck that 
ran the length of the column down a field adjoining 
the road. They were Tennessee troops who prided 
themselves on their marksmanship, but so far as I could 
tell, not a ball came within ten feet of that buck; he 
went into the woods at the far end of the field, flaunt- 
ing his white scut. It was about this time, too, that 
many of the men began to tune up their yells, scream- 
ing like wild Indians just for the fun of it. 

And that was not all, either. At one point Saturday 
evening Beauregard heard a drum rolling, but when 
he sent orders to have it silenced, the messenger came 
back and reported that it couldnt be done the drum 
was in the Union camp. Beauregard reasoned that if 
he could hear enemy drumtaps, there was small doubt 
that the Federals had heard the random firing and 
whooping in the Confederate column. Our whole 



advantage lay in surprising them, he believed, and 
since we plainly had lost all chance for surprise, it 
was best to call off the attack until another time. That 
was when he rode away and located Bragg and Bishop 
Polk, to whom he had been giving his opinion about 
abandoning the battle plans when General Johnston 
came up and decided against him. *Td fight them if 
they were a million," the general said. 

While the troops were deploying for battle, three 
lines of ten thousand men each, with the reserve of 
six thousand massed in the rear and cavalry guarding 
the flanks at the two creeks, the sun set clear and red 
beyond the tasseling oaks on tomorrow's battlefield. 
There was a great stillness in the blue dusk, and then 
the stars came out. The moon, which had risen in the 
daylight sky, was as thin as a paring, a sickle holding 
water but unclouded. I never saw the moon so high, 
so remote a dead star lighting a live one where forty 
thousand men, young and old but mostly young, slept 
on their arms in line of battle, ready for the dawn 
attack through the woods before them. God knows 
what dreams came to them or how many lay there 
sleepless thinking of home. 

General Johnston slept in an ambulance wagon. We 
staff members unrolled our blankets about a small 
campfire, and for a while we lay there watching the 
firelight flicker. Every now and then there would be 



a scrap of talk, mainly about how good it was that the 
weather had cleared, but it wouldnt last long; presently 
it would break off of itself, the way talk will do when 
the speaker has his mind fixed on something that has 
nothing to do with whatever he is talking about. 
Finally there was only the deep, regular breathing of 
the sleepers and the quiet night beyond the low dome 
of light from the fire and the high dim stars coming 
clearer as the embers paled, 

I thought of my father, who had been a soldier 
himself and lost an arm in Texas fighting under the 
same man I would fight under tomorrow, and of my 
mother who died when I was born and whom I knew 
only as a Sully portrait over the mantel in my father's 
study and some trunks of clothes stored in the attic 
of the house in New Orleans. It seemed strange. It 
seemed strange that they had met and loved and gone 
through all that joy and pain, living and dying so that 
I could lie by a Tennessee campfire under a spangled 
reach of April sky, thinking of them and the life that 
had produced me. 

Then all at once, as I was falling asleep, I remem- 
bered Sherman that Christmas Eve at the academy in 
Louisiana, the way his tears were bright against his 
red beard as he walked up and down the room where 
the headline in the paper told of the secession of South 
Carolina. I was seventeen then, a long time ago. "You 



are bound to fail/' he said. "In the end youH surely 

Now somewhere beyond that rim of firelight, sleep- 
ing in his headquarters tent on the wooded plateau 
between those two creeks, he probably had long since 
forgotten me and all the other cadets. Certainly he 
never imagined some of them were sleeping in the 
woods within a mile of him, ready to break upon his 
camp before sunup. 

Again the sleep came down, but just before it closed 
all the way, I saw again the vision that had come to 
me a hundred times before: The battle is raging, flags 
flapping in the wind and cannon booming, but every- 
thing shrinks to one little scene: Sherman in the 
Yankee brigadier's uniform and myself facing him, 
holding him prisoner, the pistol level between us. 
"You see," I say. "You were wrong. You said we 
would fail but you were wrong," and he says: "Yes: 
I was wrong. I was wrong, all right," watching die 
pistol, the tears still bright in his beard. 

I had thought I wouldnt sleep. It seemed I ought to 
make some sort of reckoning, to look back over my 
life and sit in judgment on what I'd done. But it was 
not that way. After two days in the saddle and a night 
in the rain I suppose I was tired enough. Anyway, I 
went to sleep with nothing on my mind except those 
few scattered images of my father with his empty 



sleeve and my mother who was only a portrait (bride 
of quietness I called her once, remembering the words 
from Keats, looking up at her looking down out of 
the frame, immortal like the Greek girl on the um) 
and Sherman surrendering to me on tomorrow's 
battlefield. Before I even had time to tell myself I 
was losing consciousness, my thought began to take 
on that smooth bright-flecked whirling image that 
comes with sleep; I was nowhere, nowhere at all. 

There were no drums or bugles to waken us that 
morning; there was a hand on my shoulder, and at 
first I could not understand. "Wake up. Wake up." 
Then I saw Captain O'Hara bending over me and I 
knew where I was. All the others were stirring already, 
some standing and buckling their swordbeits, some 
sitting on their rumpled blankets and pulling on their 
boots. Last night's fire was gray ashes. That pale light 
in the tops of the trees meant dawn was making. 

We were sitting there, drinking coffee, when 
General Beauregard rode up. His staff was strung out 
behind him. Their spurs and sabers jingled pleasantly; 
their uniforms were sprinkled with drops of dew from 
the trees. The general looked fresh and rested. He 
was wearing a flat red cap and it gave him a jaunty 
air every maiden's idea of a soldier. As he dis- 
mounted, General Johnston stepped out of the am- 
bulance and Beauregard crossed to meet him. They 



came toward us, accepting cups of coffee from the 
general's body servant, and when they drew near I 
was surprised to hear Beauregard again urging a return 
to Corinth. He was as earnest as before. He said he 
had heard Federal bands playing marching songs most 
of the night and at irregular intervals there had been 
bursts of cheering from the direction of the river. 
This meant only one thing, he said: Buell had come 
up, and now there were seventy thousand men in the 
Union camp, intrenched and expectant, waiting for 
us to attack. 

General Johnston did not say anything. He just 
stood there listening, looking quite calm and blowing 
on the coffee in the tin cup to cool it. Beauregard 
made rapid gestures with his hands and shoulders. 
Suddenly, catching him in midsentence, there was a 
rattle of musketry from the right front. It had a 
curious ripping sound, like tearing canvas. General 
Johnston looked in that direction, the cup poised with 
a little plume of steam balanced above it. Everyone 
looked toward the sound of firing, then back at him. 

"The battle has opened, gentlemen," he said. "It is 
too late to change our dispositions." 

Beauregard mounted and rode away, his staff jin- 
gling behind him. The rest of us went to our horses. 
When we had mounted, General Johnston sat for a 
moment with the reins held loose in his hands, his face 



quite grave. The sound of firing grew, spreading along 
the front. Then he twitched the reins, and as his big 
bay horse began to walk toward the opening battle, 
he turned in the saddle and spoke to us: 

"Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee 

2 Captain Walter Fountain 
Adjutant, $$d Ohio 

I always claimed the adjutant should not even be on 
the O D roster, but when Colonel Appier ruled other- 
wise and it came my turn \ took it in good grace and 
did as efficient a job as I knew how. When he com- 
plained next day about me moping around half dead 
on my feet, confusing the orders and sending the 
wrong reports to the wrong headquarters, I would 
simply tell him it was his own doing for putting me 
on line officer duty. I didnt require more sleep than 
the average man, probably, but without at least a 
minimum I would certainly doze at my desk to- 

Earlier, the night was clear. There was a high thin 
moon and all the stars were out. However, after the 
moon went down at half past twelve you couldnt see 
your hand in front of your face. I had thought that 
was just an expression, a manner of speaking; but at 



four oclock, when I made the final rounds with the 
sergeant, I tried it and it was true. This took careful 
doing because many of the men had never been on 
guard before, and after so much picket firing yester- 
day, they were skittish, ready to shoot at their own 
shadows. The main thing was not to sneak up on them. 
I rattled my saber wherever I went and luckily didnt 
get fired on. When we returned to the guard tent I 
trimmed the lamp wick, arranged the things on the 
table, and sat down to write my letter. 

On Outpost 
Sunday 6 April 
Martha dearest 

1 head this letter Sunday because it is long past 
midnight. Your poor husband has drawn O D (officer 
of the day it means) which in turn means he will 
lose his sleep But that is alright because it gives 
him a chance to write to his best girl without the 
interruptions that always bother us so when I try to 
write at other times. This will be a nice long letter, 
the kind your -for ever asking -for. You know how 
much I miss you but do not suppose you will mind 
hearing it again. 

The guard tent pen was even worse than usual. 
While I was scraping it I could hear, above the scree 



scree of the knife against the quill, the sound of an 
owl whooing somewhere in the trees outside, enough 
to give a man the creeps, and in the rear of the tent 
the off-duty men were snoring and coughing the way 
they always did in this crazy God-forsaken country. 

Bango lay with his head outside the circle of light, 
eyes shining out of the darkness like big yellow 
marbles. He was what they call a Redbone in these 
parts, the biggest hound I ever saw. He had been our 
regimental mascot ever since a day three weeks ago 
we were marching past one of these country shanties 
and he came trotting horse-size out of the yard, mak- 
ing straight for the color bearer who was scared half 
to death thinking he would lose a leg, at least, but the 
dog fell right into column alongside the colors, step- 
ping head-high in time to the cadence. A woman stood 
on the shanty steps, calling him to come back, come 
back, Sir, but he wouldnt pay her any mind. He'd 
rejoined the Union, the men said, and they gave him 
a cheer. The color sergeant named him Bango that 
same day. Now he lay there looking at me with his 
big yellow eyes, just beyond the golden circle of lamp- 

General Grant saw us out on parade two days ago 
and held up the entire column while he got down off 
his horse to look at Bango. He was always crazy 
about animals, even back in the old Georgetown days 



when I was a boy and he was driving a logging wagon 
for his father. He said Bango was the finest hound 
he'd ever seen. 

You would not know old Useless Grant if you 
saw him now. / keep reminding myself he is the same 
one that came through home 20 years ago, just out 
of West Point that time he drilled the militia. He 
trembled when he gave commands & was so thin 
& p&le, you could see he hated it. Its even harder 
to connect him with the man that came back from 
being booted out of the Army for drinking & all 
the tales we heard about him in St Louis & out in III. 
The men all swear by him because he is a Fighter 
& I think we ought to be proud he is -from George- 

It was the operation against Belmont last October 
in southeast Missouri across the river from Columbus, 
Kentucky, that first attracted public attention to 
Grant. He attacked the Confederates and routed them, 
but his men turned aside to loot the camp instead of 
pressing the attack, and the Rebels cowering under 
the riverbank had time to catch their breath. When 
reinforcements came from the opposite shore, they 
counterattacked and Grant retreated. 

This was no victory. Strictly speaking, it wasnt 
even a successful campaign. He just went out and came 


back, losing about as many as he killed. But the fact 
that struck everyone was that he had marched in dirty 
weather instead of waiting for fair, had kept his head 
when things went all against him, and had brought 
his command back to base with some real fighting 
experience under its belt. 

By then we were pressing them all along the line. 
When Thomas in the east defeated Zollicoffer, wreck- 
ing his army, Grant moved against Middle Tennessee. 
Gunboats took Fort Henry by bombardment, and 
when that was done Grant marched twelve miles over- 
land to Fort Donelson and forced its surrender in two 
days of hard fighting. The Rebels in the fort sent a 
note asking for terms. Grant wrote back: "No terms 
except an unconditional and immediate surrender can 
be expected. I propose to move immediately upon 

vour works." 


People back home went crazy with joy, ringing 
church bells and hugging each other on the street. 
That was when I joined up. Everybody knew the 
Donelson message by heart. "I propose to move im- 
mediately upon your works" they said it in every 
imaginable situation until it got to be a joke. The 
nation had a new hero: Unconditional Surrender 
Grant, they called him. Best of all, however, the fall 
of the forts had flanked the enemy armies. The whole 
Confederate line caved in, from Kentucky to the 



Mississippi River. They fell back, and we followed. 
That was when General Halleck was put in com- 
mand. I saw him once in St Louis; it was in February 
when I went down after my commission. Old Brains, 
they called him. He looked a little like an owl and he 
had a peculiar habit of hugging himself across the 
chest and scratching his elbows when he was worried. 
He had plenty to worry him now. Buell moved slowly, 
careful lest old foxy Johnston turn on him with 
something out of his bag of tricks, and Grant went off 
to Nashville ( God knows why, Halleck said; it was 
clear out of his department) and would not acknowl- 
edge any messages sent him. About this time Halleck 
got an anonymous letter saying Grant had slipped 
back to his old habits and was oif on a bender. So 
Halleck took Grant's army away from him and gave 
it to General Smith. 

O, my darling it is six 'weeks today this very Sunday 
ive have been apart. Does it not seem longer? 
That day that ive marched away for Paducah, going 
to the war & everyone out in their Sunday best to 
cheer us off, it seems so long ago. In your last you 
said how proud you 'were 1 looked so elegant in 
uniform, but I was the one should have been proud 
for you put all the rest of them to shame, &if I <was 
a Captain among the men surely you 'were a Colonel 
among the ladies. Such a pretty one too! 



Now you must not be jealous, dearest girl, 
because if you could see these country Secesh 'women 
you wouldn't be. They wear mother Hubbards 
& are thin as rails every one. It must be because their 
men work them so hard I suppose, scrubbing clothes 
& boiling soap & everything. They just stand on 
their porches & stare at us marching by. O, if looks 
could kill. But really 1 think they would like to have 
us on their side Vain wish! 

When we got to Paducah we were brigaded with 
two other Ohio regiments in Sherman's division. That 
created excitement among us, for Sherman had been 
removed from command of troops in November on 
suspicion of insanity. He had told the Secretary of 
War that the government would need two hundred 
thousand well-trained troops to crush the Rebellion in 
the Mississippi Valley alone. But finally Halleck had 
decided that he was not crazy, just high-strung and 
talkative, and had given him a division under Smith, 
Every man assigned to that division was worried. 
Naturally no one wanted to go into combat with a 
leader who might take a notion to storm a frozen 
river or a burning barn. And our first sight of him 
wasnt reassuring. He was red-headed, gaunt, skeleton 
thin, with a wild expression around his eyes; he had 
sunken temples, a fuzzy beard, and a hungry look that 
seemed to have been with him always. I never saw 



him but I thought of Lazarus. His shoulders twitched; 
his hands were never still, always fumbling with some- 
thing, a button or a saber hilt or his whiskers. Our 
first real operation, however, changed our minds 
about him though, truth to tell, it was not a success- 
ful movement. 

Halleck ordered General Smith to move up the 
Tennessee River to Savannah up means south on the 
Tennessee; thats typical in this country. We went on 
transports. We were green; most of us had never left 
home before (officers as well as men, except the officers 
carried their greenness better) yet here we were, travel- 
ing south up an enemy river past slow creeks and 
bayous and brooding trees. I thought to myself if this 
was the country the Rebels wanted to take out of the 
Union, we ought to say thank you, good riddance. 
The men crowded the rails, watching the swampland 
slide past. None of them said much. I supposed, like 
myself, they were thinking of home. It was a strange 
thing to be in a distant land, among things youd never 
seen before, all because our people in Congress had 
squabbled among themselves and failed to get along 
and there were hotheads in the South who thought 
more of their Negroes and their pride than they did 
of their country. Lining the rails of the transports, 
watching that dismal swampland slide past, there must 



have been many a man who was thinking of home and 
the ones he'd left behind. 

1 ww j0z So much. 

From Savannah, Tennessee, Smith sent Sherman 
farther south, toward the Mississippi state line, to break 
the Memphis & Charleston Railroad which passed 
through Corinth where Beauregard was busy collect- 
ing the scattered Rebel armies. This was probably the 
most important railway in the Confederacy, the main 
supply line from the Transmississippi to their armies 
in the East. Two gunboats escorted us up the river. 
It was good to have them. Everyone, Rebel and Union 
alike, respected gunboats. 

We came off the transports at midnight in the 
hardest rain I ever saw, and by daybreak we were far 
inland. Most of the bridges across the creeks had been 
washed away. The rain came pouring. The cavalry, 
operating out front, lost men and horses drowned try- 
ing to ford the swollen creeks, and behind us the 
Tennessee was rising fast, threatening to cut us off 
by flooding the bottom we had marched across. It 
was agreeable to everyone in the division when Sher- 
man ordered us back to the transports. The gunboats 
stayed with us going back down the river and covered 
our disembarkation at Pittsburg Landing, which we 
had passed coming up from Savannah. 



It had been a nightmare operation, floundering in 
the bottoms. Probably we had done no earthly good. 
We were wet and tired and hungry and cold. Some 
of us had been somewhat frightened, to tell the truth. 
But curiously enough, when we were back aboard 
the transports where they passed out hot coffee and 
blankets, everyone felt fine about the whole business. 
For one thing, we had been into the enemy country 
a division on its own, looking for trouble: that gave us 
a feeling of being veterans and for another, we had 
seen our commander leading us. 

Sherman was not the same man at all. He was not 
so nervous. His shoulders didnt twitch the way theyd 
done in camp. He was calm and ready, confident, and 
when he saw the thing wasnt possible he did not fret 
or fume and he didnt hesitate to give it up. Whatever 
else he might be, he certainly was not crazy. We 
knew that now, and we were willing to follow wher- 
ever he said go. 

There is a thing I hope you will do for me, Martha 
Bake me one of those three decker cakes like the 
one you brought out to Camp that day while we 
were training near home. All I got that time was a 
single slice. Every officer in the regiment cut him- 
self a hunk & of course Col Appier got the biggest 
but they all said how good it was. They shall not 


get a miff of this one though. Wrap it careful so it 
wont get squashed & mark it Fragil but do not write 
on the box it is food because there is no sense in 
tempting those lazy mail clerks any more than neces- 
sary they are already flump on the soldiers in 
the field. I can taste it right now it will be so good, 
so please do not delay. 

In peacetime Plttsburg was the Tennessee River 
landing where steamboats unloaded their cargoes for 
Corinth, twenty-odd miles to the southwest. There 
was a high bluff at the river bank it rose abruptly, 
its red clay streaked at the base with year-round flood- 
stage marks. Beyond the bluff, a hundred feet above 
the water level, there was a rough plateau cut with 
ravines and gullies. The creeks were swollen now. 
Oaks and sycamores and all the other trees common 
to this region were so thickly clustered here that even 
at midday, by skirting the open fields and small farms 
scattered there, you could walk from the Landing three 
miles inland without stepping into sunlight. If you 
carried an ax, that is. For the ground beneath the 
limbs and between the tree trunks was thickly over- 
grown with briers and creepers and a man leaving the 
old paths would have to hack through most of the 
way. We spent a rough week clearing our camp sites, 
but after that was done it was not so bad. 



The Landing itself was between the mouths of two 
creeks that emptied into the Tennessee about five 
miles apart. Looking southwest, with your back to the 
river, Snake Creek was on your right and Lick Creek 
on your left. A little more than a mile from the mouth 
of Snake Creek, another stream (called Owl Creek) 
branched off obliquely toward the left, so that the 
farther you went from the Landing the narrower the 
space between the creeks became. Roughly, the 
plateau was a parallelogram, varying from five to three 
miles on a side, cross-hatched with a network of wagon 
trails running inland from the Landing and footpaths 
connecting the forty- and fifty-acre farms. It was con- 
fusing. When we first arrived, messengers went badly 
astray going from one camp to another. Guards would 
roam from their posts without knowing it. All that 
first week you saw men asking the way to their out- 
fits; theyd gone to the bushes and got turned around 
and couldnt find their way back. I got lost myself 
every time I stopped without taking proper bearings. 
It was embarrassing. 

But after we had been there a few days we became 
used to it and realized what a good, strong position 
Sherman had chosen. He had an eye for terrain. Those 
creeks, swollen now past fording, gave us complete 
protection on the flanks in case the Rebels obliged us 
by coming up to fight on our own ground. Through 



the opening to the southwest we had a straight shot 
for Corinth on a fairly good road (considering) down 
which we could march when the time came for us to 
move out for the attack on Beauregard. 

Hurlbut's division landed with us. Within a few 
days the others had arrived, Prentiss and McClernand 
and W.H.L. Wallace. Lew Wallace had his division 
at Crump's Landing, downstream on the Tennessee 
about five miles north of Snake Creek. Our division 
was out front the position of honor; they called it 
that to make us feel good, probably; certainly there 
was small honor involved three miles down the 
Corinth road, on a line stretching roughly east and 
west of a small Methodist log meeting-house called 
Shiloh Chapel, near which Sherman had his head- 
quarters. Hurlbut was two miles behind us, within a 
mile of the Landing. Prentiss took position on our left 
flank when he came up, and McClernand camped 
directly in our rear. W.H.L. Wallace was to the right 
and slightly to the rear of Hurlbut. 

There were forty thousand of us. General Smith, 
who had his headquarters at Savannah, was in com- 
mand of the army, but it was Sherman who chose 
Pittsburg Landing as the concentrating point and 
made the dispositions. We drilled and trained all day 
every day, march and countermarch until we thought 
we'd drop, improving the time while waiting for 



BuelPs army to arrive from Nashville. When he 
joined, we would be seventy-five thousand. Then the 
Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Ohio, 
combined under Halleck, would march against the 
Rebels down at Corinth. There wasnt a soldier who 
did not realize the strategic possibilities of the situ- 
ation, and everyone was confident of the outcome. 

We felt good. When the war began a year ago, all 
the newspapers carried reprints of speeches by Con- 
federate orators, calling us Northern scum and mer- 
cenaries and various other fancy names and boasting 
that Southern soldiers were better men than we were, 
ten to one. Then Bull Run came a disgrace that bit 
deeper than talk. That was when we began to realize 
we had a war on our hands, and we buckled down to 

Belmont and Fishing Creek and Donelson showed 
what we could do. We pushed them back through 
Kentucky and Tennessee, taking city after city and 
giving them every chance to turn and fight. They 
never did. If they were worth ten to one of us, they 
certainly didnt show it. Now we were within an easy 
march of Mississippi, one of the fire-eater States, first 
to leave the Union after South Carolina, and still they 
wouldnt turn and stand and fight. 

Of course there is nothing to do but drill drill 
drill but toe did not come down here on a picnic 


anyway. God forbid its not my notion of a picnic 
grounds. Every one -feels that the sooner we move 
against them the better , because when we move 
we're going to beat them and end this War. Its come 
a long way since Bull Run we have taken our 
time & built a big -fine army, the finest ever was. For 
the past half year we have beat them where ever 
they would stop for Battle & I believe this next will 
wind it up in the West. 

Then General Smith skinned his leg on the sharp 
edge of a rowboat seat, and it became so badly in- 
fected he had to be relieved. Halleck put Grant back 
in command; he had found that the anonymous letter 
was untrue along with some other scandal about the 
mishandling of captured goods at Donelson. We 
cheered when we heard that Grant was back. He kept 
his headquarters where Smith's had been, at a big 
brick house in Savannah, nine miles down the Ten- 
nessee and on the opposite bank, overlooking the 
river. We saw him daily, for he came up by steamboat 
every morning and returned every night. The men 
liked being in his army. Fighting under Grant meant 
winning victories. 

He was a young general, not yet forty, a little 
below average height, with lank brown hair and an 
unkempt beard. His shoulders sloped and this gave 
him a slouchy look that was emphasized by the pri- 



vate's blouse which he wore with the straps of a major 
general tacked on. I could remember when he used 
to haul logs for his father's tanyard back home in 
Georgetown. There was eight years' difference in our 
ages: a big span between boys, enough certainly to 
keep me from knowing him except by sight: but I 
could remember many things about him. He was 
called Useless Grant in those days, and people said he 
would never amount to anything. Mainly he was 
known for his love of animals. It was strange, he loved 
them so much he never went hunting, and he refused 
to work in the tanyard because he couldnt bear the 
smell of dripping hides. He had a way with horses. 
Later, at West Point, he rode the horse that set a high- 
jump record. 

When I watched him drill the militia at Georgetown 
after he finished at the Academy he graduated far 
down the list and had almost every demerit possible 
marked against his name for deportment I got the 
idea he hated the army. Seeing him stand so straight 
and severe, maneuvering the troops about the court- 
house square, I thought how different this was from 
what he would prefer to be doing. Then the Mexican 
War broke out, and though he only had some admin- 
istrative job down there, we heard that he had dis- 
tinguished himself under fire, going after ammunition 
or something. 


Next thing we knew, he had married into a slave- 
owning family down Missouri way which was some- 
thing of a joke because Old Man Grant had been one 
of the original Abolitionists in our county. However 
much West Point might have changed him, his method 
of asking his girl to marry him was just like the Ulyss 
we had known back home. The way I heard it, they 
were crossing a flooded bridge, the buggy jouncing, 
and the girl moved over and took his arm and said, 
"Fm going to cling to you no matter what happens'* 
(she was a Missouri girl, all right) and when they were 
safe on the other side Grant said to her, "How would 
you like to cling to me for the rest of your life?" 

For five or six years after that we didnt hear of 
him at all. Then one day everybody knew about him. 
Stationed on the West Coast, away from his family, 
he took to brooding and finally drank himself right out 
of the army. His father-in-law gave him an eighty-acre 
farm near St Louis. Grant cleared the land him- 
self, then built a log house there and named it Hard- 
scrabble. It was about this time that a man from home 
went down to the city on business and came back 
saying he'd seen Grant on the street, wearing his old 
army fatigue clothes and selling kindling by the 
bundle, trying to make ends meet. But it was no go. 
He sold out and went into town, where he tried to be 
a real-estate salesman. 



Now youd think If ever a man had a chance to 
succeed at anything, it would surely be in real estate 
in St Louis in the '505. But that was no go either. So 
Grant moved up to Galena, Illinois, where his brothers 
ran a leather business, and went to work selling hides 
for a living, the occupation he had hated so much 
twenty years before. Mostly, though, he just sat 
around the rear of the store, for he was such a poor 
salesman that the brothers did what they could to 
keep him away from their customers. He had a high- 
born wife and four children to support, and at thirty- 
tight he was a confirmed failure in every sense of the 

Then came Sumter. But at first not even the declara- 
tion of war seemed to offer him an opportunity. He 
served as drill-master of the Galena volunteers, but 
when the troops marched away he stayed behind 
because his position was not official. Then his real 
chance came. The governor made him a colonel in 
charge of recruit training at a camp near Springfield, 
and not long afterwards he picked up a St Louis news- 
paper and read where he'd been made a brigadier. 
This had been at the insistence of an Illinois congress- 
man who claimed the appointment for Grant as his 
share of the political spoils. No one was more sur- 
prised than Grant himself. 

He was neither pro nor anti on the slavery question, 



though his father had been an Abolitionist and his wife 
had kept her two Negroes with her aH through her 
marriage. A proclamation he issued in Kentucky "I 
have nothing to do with opinions. I shall deal only 
with armed rebellion and its aiders and abettors" 
first attracted the attention of the government which 
was having its troubles with generals who were also 
politicians. But it was not until the Battle of Belmont 
that they began to see his fighting qualities. Then the 
double capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, espe- 
cially the unconditional surrender note he sent to his 
old friend Buckner, made his name known every- 

This coming great Battle of Corinth will be -fought 
not more than a month pom now. The Rebels are 
massing & we are massing too <& soon we shall go 
down & get our revenge for Bull Run. After that 
Tm sure to get a -furlough & we shall be together 
again. It seems so long. Martha, 1 give you fair 
warning now nothing but Unconditional Surrender, 
/ propose to move immediately upon your works. 
(For goodness sake dont let any body see this not even 
a peek.} 

It gave us confidence just to see Grant ride among 
us in his rumpled private's blouse, looking calm and 
composed no matter what came up and always smok- 


ing a cigar. (He'd smoked a pipe before. But after 
Donelson, people sent him so many boxes of cigars he 
felt obliged to smoke them.) The soldiers never put 
much stock in all the tales about him drinking and 
carousing, for we saw him daily in the field. There 
may have been those little whiskey-lines around his 
eyes, but they were there before the war. We knew 
that he had seen to it himself that the whiskey would 
not get him this time, the way it had done eight years 
before, and here was how he did it: 

He had an officer on his staff named Rawlins, a 
young hard-faced man in his late twenties, dark com- 
plexioned with stiff black hair to match. He'd been 
a lawyer in Galena, handling legal aff airs for the Grant 
brothers' leather store; that was how Grant met him. 
As soon as he made brigadier, Grant sent for Rawlins 
and put him on his staff. Rawlins had a gruff manner 
with everyone, the general included. Other staff 
officers said he was insubordinate twenty times a day. 
That was what Grant wanted: someone to take him 
in hand if he ever let up. I saw his bold, hard signature 
often on papers passing over my desk JNO A RAW- 
LINS and you could tell, just by the way he wrote 
it, he wouldnt take fooling with. There was a saying 
in the army: "If you hit Rawlins on the head, youll 
knock Grant's brains out," but that wasnt true. He 



was not Grant's brains. He was Grant's conscience, 
and he was a rough one. 

So that was the way It was. There had been flurries 
of snow at first (the sunny South! we cried) but we 
were too busy clearing our camp sites to think about 
marching, anyhow. Soon afterward the weather 
cleared, half good days, half bad, and Sherman made 
a practice of sending us down the road toward Corinth 
on conditioning marches with flankers out and a 
screen of pickets, just the way It would be when we 
moved for keeps. It was fine training. Occasionally 
there would be run-ins with Rebel cavalry, but they 
would never stand and fight. We'd see them for a 
moment, gray figures on scampering horses, with 
maybe a shot or two like hand-claps and a little pearly 
gob of smoke coming up; then they would vanish. 
That was part of our training, being shot at. 

It was during this period that Colonel Appier and I 
began to fall out. He had a wild notion that all mem- 
bers of his command, cooks and clerks and orderlies 
included, should not only be well-versed In the school 
of the soldier, but also should take part In all the 
various tactical exercises. That was all right for theory, 
perhaps, but of course when it came to putting It Into 
practice it didnt work. In the first place they made 
poor soldiers and in the second place it interfered 
with their regular duties and in the third place it 



wasnt fair in the first place. All my clerks complained, 
and some of them even applied for transfer. One or 
the other, they said; not both. 

So I went to the colonel and put my cards on the 
table. He was angry and began to bluster, complaining 
that he could never get his orders carried out without 
a lot of grousing. He said all headquarters personnel 
were born lazy and he looked straight at me as he 
said it. Finally he began to hint that maybe I didnt 
like being shot at. Well, truth to tell, I had no more 
fondness for being shot at than the next man, but I 
wasnt going to stand there and take that kind of talk, 
even if he was my regimental commander. I saluted 
and left. Next morning when I checked the bulletin 
board I saw that I'd been put on O D for the night. 

If this had been an ordinary, personal sort of feud 
I would have been enjoying my revenge already. 
Colonel Appier had been making a fool of himself, 
the laughingstock of the whole army, for the past 
three days. He was a highstrung sort of person any- 
how, jumpy, given to imagining the whole Rebel 
army was right outside his tent-flap. Friday afternoon, 
April fourth, a regiment on our left lost a picket 
guard of seven men and an officer, gobbled up by the 
grayback cavalry, and when the colonel advanced a 
company to develop the situation they ran into 



scattered firing, nothing serious, and came back with- 
out recovering the men. 

All day Saturday Colonel Appier was on tenter- 
hooks. We felt really ashamed for him. Other outfits 
began to call us the Long Roll regiment because we 
had sounded the alarm so often. The last straw came 
that afternoon. A scouting party ran into the usual 
Rebel horsemen and the colonel sent me back with a 
message to General Sherman that a large force of the 
enemy was moving upon us. I was angry anyhow 
because I had found just that morning that he'd put 
me on O D that night, and then after dinner he'd 
made me accompany him on the scout so I wouldnt 
have time to get properly ready for guard mount. 
Now he was adding the crowning indignity by mak- 
ing me carry one of his wild alarms, crying Wolf 
again for the God-knows-whatth time, back to the 
general himself. I knew the reception Fd get at 
division headquarters, especially if Sherman turned 
that redheaded temper on me. My hope was that he 
would be away on inspection or something. Then all 
I would have to put up with would be the jeers of 
the adjutant and the clerks. 

As luck would have it, I met the general riding 
down the road toward our position, accompanied by 
an aide and an orderly. When I told him what Colonel 
Appier had said, he clamped his mouth in a line. I 



could see he was angry he'd received that message 
from the colonel too many times already. But he 
didnt say anything to me; he clapped the spurs to his 
horse, and soon we came to a clearing where Colonel 
Appier and some of his staff were standing beside the 
road with their horses' reins in their hands. 

Colonel Appier began to tell Sherman how many 
Rebs there were in the woods out front. He was ex- 
cited; he flung his arms around and stretched his eyes. 
Sherman sat there patiently, hearing him through and 
looking into the empty woods. When the colonel had 
finished, Sherman looked down at him for almost a 
full minute, saying nothing. Then he jerked the reins, 
turning his horse toward camp. As he turned he spoke 
to Colonel Appier directly. 

"Take your damned regiment back to Ohio," he 
said, snapping the words. "Beauregard is not such a 
fool as to leave his base of operations and attack us 
in ours. There is no enemy nearer than Corinth." 

And he rode away. It was certainly a rebuke to 
Colonel Appier, administered in the presence of his 
men. I heard at least one of them snigger. 

Charley Gregg has been promoted ist Lieut in 
Co G. He bought himself an armored vest in Saint 
Louis <& clanks when he 'walks. The man 'who sold 
it to him said if it did not stop bullets, bring it 



back & he would give him mother. Ha Ha! You 
'would not catch me wearing a thing like that it 
would be like admitting in public you were afraid. 
The men make jokes about getting him out with 
tin mips but Charley likes it & wears it all the time 

Dawn had come while I was writing my letter. It 
was cool and clear, the Lord's day and a fine one. 
Somewhere out front, over toward the right, the 
pickets already were stirring. There was a rattle of 
firing from that direction two groups of soldiers, 
grayback horsemen and a bunch of our boys, earning 
a living but that meant nothing more than that there 
were some nervous pickets on the line for the first 
time, itching to burn a little powder and throw a little 
lead the way they always did, shooting at shadows 
for the sake of something to write home about. It died 
away and the birds began to sing. 

The guard tent, facing northwest so that the sun 
came up in the rear, was out in an open field a few 
hundred yards short of a swale which crossed the 
center of the clearing. In the swale there was a small 
stream with a thin screen of willows and water oaks 
along its banks. The willows were green already but 
the oaks had just begun to bud. I could see through 
the fringe of trees the field continuing for a few more 



handled yards to where it ended abruptly against a 
line of heavy woods at its far margin. Sherman's head- 
quarters tent had been pitched directly in rear of the 
guard tent, out of sight across the road. Shiloh Chapel 
was to the right rear, visible through the trees which 
were tinted blood-red now, the color moving down as 
the sun rose higher. 

Near at hand but out of sight, between the guard 
tent and division headquarters, the cooks were up. I 
could hear two of them talking above the rattle of 
pots and pans. I could even recognize their voices. 
One was Lou Treadway; he was from Georgetown. 
Back home he always had his pockets full of tracts 
and was ever ready to talk salvation to anyone who 
would listen or to anyone who wouldnt, for that 
matter. He knew his Bible, cover to cover, and at the 
drop of a hat he'd expound on a text, usually an 
obscure one that gave him plenty of room to move 
around in. He was a little wrong in the head, but a 
good cook. 

"Take that chapel yonder," he was saying. "It's 
called Shiloh. You know what that means, brother?" 

"Cant say I do," the other cook said. By the sound 
of his voice, he was plenty weary of Lou's eternal 
preaching. But this was Sunday and Lou was all wound 
up. There was no way of stopping him. 

"Second Samuel, brother" I could the same as see 



him nod his head that positive way he had. "Says it's 
what the children of Israel, God's chosen, was work- 
ing toward. Yes: a place for them to lay down their 
worries. Bible scholars interpret that it means the 
Place of Peace." And he went on expounding. 

Now mind you Martha, no more reproaching me 
for not writing long letters that give all the news 
about myself. Here are three pages of big sheets close 
written you can not say again your husband never 
writes you long letters. Guard duty would not be so 
bad if every man could spend it this way writing 
to the one he misses most. 

Its a beautiful Sunday morn, the sun just coming 
up. I bet you are sleep in bed. Remember what 1 
said that last night about next time? All the birds are 

Birds were tearing their throats out, hopping around 
in the budding limbs, and there was a great scamper- 
ing of animals out front in the thickets. It was fine to 
be up at that time of the morning, even if it had meant 
staying up on guard all the night before. I didnt feel 
a bit sleepy, but I knew it would come down on me 
that afternoon. For the first time, this Southern 
country took on real beauty, or else I was a little 
drunk from lack of sleep. I forgot about Colonel 
Appier and the way he was forever ranting because I 



misspelled a few words in the regimental orders. The 
countryside looked so good that it reminded me of 
spring back home in Ohio, when everything is open- 
ing and the air is soft with the touch of summer and 
fragrant with rising sap and bursting buds. 

O my dearest, if only you knew how much I lo 

There was a rattle of sound all across the front of 
the position, like snapping limbs, and another racket 
mixed in too, like screaming women. Bango lifted his 
head, the big yellow eyes still glazed with sleep. I 
recognized it as the sound of firing, and then there 
were the thudding booms of cannon. Beyond the 
swale and through the screen of trees along the stream 
I saw rabbits and fluttering birds and even a doe with 
her spotted-backed fawn. She ran with nervous 
mincing steps, stopping frequently to turn her head 
back in the direction she had come from. 

Then I saw the skirmishers come through. They 
looked tall and lean, even across that distance. Beneath 
their wide-brimmed hats their faces were sharp, and 
their gray and butternut trousers were wet to the 
thighs with dew. They carried their rifles slantwise 
across their bodies, like quail hunters. 


3 Private Luther Dade 

Rifleman, 6th Mississippi 

When I went to sleep the stars were out and there 
was even a moon, thin like a sickle and clear against 
the night, but when I woke up there was only the 
blackness and the wind sighing high in the treetops. 
That was what roused me I believe, because for a 
minute I disremembered where I was. I thought I was 
back home, woke up early and laying in bed waiting 
for pa to come with the lantern to turn me out to 
milk (that was the best thing about the army: no 
cows) and ma was in the kitchen humming a hymn 
while she shook up the stove. But then I realized part 
of the sound was the breathing and snoring of the men 
all around me, with maybe a whimper or a moan every 
now and again when the bad dreams came, and I 
remembered. We had laid down to sleep in what they 
call Line of Battle and now the night was nearly over. 
And when I remembered I wished I'd stayed asleep: 



because that was the worst part, to lie there alone, 
feeling lonely, and no one to tell you he was feeling 
the same. 

But it was warm under the blanket and my clothes 

had dried and I could feel my new rifle through the 

cloth where I had laid it to be safe from the dew 

when I wrapped the covers round me. Then it was 

the same as if theyd all gone away, or / had; I was 

back home with my brothers and sisters again, myself 

the oldest by over a year, and they were gathered 

around to tell me goodbye the way they did a 

month ago when I left to join up in Corinth after 

General Beauregard sent word that all true men were 

needed to save the country. That was the way he 

said it. I was just going to tell them I would be back 

with a Yankee sword for the fireplace, like pa did 

with the Mexican one, when I heard somebody 

talking in a hard clear voice not like any of my folks, 

and when I looked up it was Sergeant Tyree. 

"Roll out there," he said. "Roll out to fight." 

I had gone to sleep and dreamed of home, but here 

I was, away up in Tennessee, further from Ithaca 

and Jordan County than Fd ever been in all my 

life before. It was Sunday already and we were 

fixing to hit them where they had their backs to 

the river, the way it was explained while we were 


waiting for our marching orders three days ago. I 
sat up. 

From then on everything moved fast with a sort 
of mixed-up jerkiness, like Punch and Judy. Every 
face had a kind of drawn look, the way it would 
be if a man was picking up on something heavy. Late 
ones like myself were pulling on their shoes or rolling 
their blankets. Others were already fixed. They 
squatted with their rifles across their thighs, sitting 
there in the darkness munching biscuits, those that 
had saved any, and not doing much talking. They 
nodded their heads with quick flicky motions, like 
birds, and nursed their rifles, keeping them out of the 
dirt. I had gotten to know them all in a month and 
a few of them were even from the same end of the 
county I was, but now it was like I was seeing them 
for the first time, diff erent. All the put-on had gone 
out of their faces they were left with what God gave 
them at the beginning. 

We lined up. And while Sergeant Tyree passed 
among us, checking us one by one to make sure 
everything was where it was supposed to be, dawn 
begun to corne through, faint and high. While we 
were answering roll-call the sun rose big and red 
through the trees and all up and down the company 
front they begun to get excited and jabber at one 
another: "The sun of oyster itch/ 5 whatever that 


meant. I was glad to see the sun again, no matter 
what they called it. 

One minute we were standing there, shifting from 
leg to leg, not saying much and more or less avoiding 
each other's eyes: then we were going forward. It 
happened that sudden. There was no bugle or drum 
or anything like that. The men on our right started 
moving and we moved too, lurching forward through 
the underbrush and trying to keep the line straight 
the way we had been warned to do, but we couldnt. 
Captain Plummer was cussing. "Dwess it up," he kept 
saying, cussing a blue streak; "Dwess it up, dod dam 
it, dwess it up/' all the way through the woods. So 
after a while, when the trees thinned, we stopped to 
straighten the line. 

There was someone on a tall claybank horse out 
front, a fine-looking man in a new uniform with 
chicken guts on the sleeves all the way to his elbows, 
spruce and spang as a gamecock. He had on a stiff red 
cap, round and flat on top like a sawed-off dice box, 
and he was making a speech. "Soldiers of the South!" 
he shouted in a fine proud voice, a little husky, and 
everybody cheered. All I could hear was the cheering 
and yipping all around me, but I could see his eyes 
light up and his mouth moving the way it will do 
when a man is using big words. I thought I heard 
something about defenders and liberty and even some- 



thing about the women back home but I couldnt be 
sure; there was so much racket. When he was through 
he stood in the stirrups, raising his cap to us as we 
went by, and I recognized him. It was General 
Beauregard, the man I'd come to fight for, and I 
hadnt hardly heard a word he said. 

We stayed lined up better now because we were 
through the worst of the briers and vines, but just 
as we got going good there was a terrible clatter off 
to the right, the sound of firecrackers mixed with a 
roaring and yapping like a barn full of folks at a 
Fourth of July dogfight or a gouging match. The 
line begun to crook and weave because some of the 
men had stopped to listen, and Captain Plummer 
was cussing them, tongue-tied. Joe Marsh was next 
to me he was nearly thirty, middle-aged, and had 
seen some battle up near Bowling Green. "There you 
are," he said, slow and calm and proud of himself* 
"Some outfit has met the elephant." That was what 
the ones who had been in action always called it: 
the elephant. 

They had told us how it would be. They said we 
would march two days and on the third day we 
would hit them where they were camped between 
two creeks with their backs to the Tennessee River. 
We would drive them, the colonel told us, and when 
they were pushed against the river we would kill or 


capture the whole she-bang. I didnt understand it 
much because what the colonel said was full of tactics 
talk. Later the captain explained it, and that was 
better but not much. So then Sergeant Tyree showed 
it to us by drawing lines on the ground with a stick. 
That way it was clear as could be. 

It sounded fine, the way he told it; it sounded 
simple and easy. Maybe it was too simple, or some- 
thing. Anyhow things didnt turn out so good when 
it came to doing them. On the third day we were 
still marching, all day, and here it was the fourth 
day and we were still just marching, stop and go 
but mostly stop the only real difference was that 
the column was moving sideways now, through the 
woods instead of on the road. From all that racket 
over on the right I thought maybe the other outfits 
would have the Yankees pushed back and captured 
before we even got to see it. The noise had died 
down for a minute, but as we went forward it 
swelled up again, rolling toward the left where we 
were, rifles popping and popping and the soldiers 
yelling crazy in the distance. It didnt sound like any 
elephant to me. 

We came clear of the woods where they ended on 
a ridge overlooking a valley with a little creek running 
through it. The ground was open all across the valley, 
except where the creek bottom was overgrown, and 



mounted to another ridge on the other side where the 
woods began again. There were white spots in the 
fringe of trees these were tents, I made out. We 
were the left brigade of the whole army. The i$th 
Arkansas, big men mostly, with bowie knives and 
rolled-up sleeves, was spread across the front for 
skirmishers, advanced a little way in the open. There 
was a Tennessee regiment on our right and two more 
on our left and still another at the left rear with 
flankers out. Then we were all in the open, lined 
up with our flags riffling in the breeze. Colonel Thorn- 
ton was out front, between us and the skirmishers. 
His saber flashed in the sun. Looking down the line 
I saw the other regimental commanders, and all their 
sabers were flashing sunlight too. It was like a parade 
just before it begins. 

This is going to be what they promised us, I said 
to myself. This is going to be the charge. 

That was when General Johnston rode up. He came 
right past where I was standing, a fine big man on a 
bay stallion. He had on a broad-brim hat and a cape 
and thigh boots with gold spurs that twinkled like 
sparks of fire. I watched him ride by, his mustache 
flaring out from his mouth and his eyes set deep under 
his forehead. He was certainly the handsomest man 
I ever saw, bar none; he made the other officers on 
his staff look small. There was a little blond-headed 


lieutenant bringing up the rear, the one who would 
go all red in the face when the men guyed him back 
on the march. He looked about my age, but that was 
the only thing about us that was alike. He had on 
a natty uniform: bobtail jacket, red silk neckerchief, 
fire-gilt buttons, and all. I said to myself, I bet his ma 
would have a fit if she could see him now. 

General Johnston rode between our regiment and 
the Tennessee boys on our right, going forward 
to where the skirmish line was waiting. When the 
colonel in charge had reported, General Johnston 
spoke to the skirmishers: "Men of Arkansas, they say 
you boast of your prowess with the bowie knife. 
Today you wield a nobler weapon: the bayonet. 
Employ it well." They stood there holding their rifles 
and looking up at him, shifting their feet a little and 
looking sort of embarrassed. He was the only man I 
ever saw who wasnt a preacher and yet could make 
that high-flown way of talking sound right. Then he 
turned his horse and rode back through our line, and 
as he passed he leaned sideways in the saddle and spoke 
to us: "Look along your guns, and fire low." It made 
us ready and anxious for what was coming. 

Captain Pluinmer walked up and down the com- 
pany front. He was short, inclined to fat, and walked 
with a limp from the blisters he developed on the 
march. "Stay dwessed on me, wherever I go," he said. 



"And shoot low. Aim for their knees." All up and 
down the line the flags were flapping and other 
officers were speaking to their men. 

I was watching toward the front, where we would 
go, but all I could see was that empty valley with 
the little creek running through it and the rising 
ground beyond jwith the trees on top. While I was 
looking, trying hard to see was anybody up there, all 
of a sudden there was a Boom! Boom! Boom! directly 
in the rear and it scared me so bad I almost broke for 
cover. But when I looked around I saw they had 
brought up the artillery and it was shooting over our 
heads towards the left in a shallow swale. I felt real 
sheepish from having jumped hut when I looked 
around I saw that the others had jumped as much 
as I had, and now they were joking at one another 
about who had been the most scared, carrying it off 
all brave-like but looking kind of hang-dog about it 
too. I was still trying to see whatever it was out front 
that the artillery was shooting at, but all I could see 
was that valley with the creek in it and the dark trees 
on the flanks. 

I was still mixed up, wondering what it all meant, 
when we begun to go forward, carrying our rifles 
at right shoulder shift the way we had been taught to 
do on parade. Colonel Thornton was still out front, 
flashing his saber and calling back over his shoulder: 



"Close up, men. Close up. Guiiide centerrrrr!" The 
skirmishers went out of sight in the swale, the same 
as if they had marched into the ground. When we 
got to where they had gone down, we saw them again, 
but closer now, kneeling and popping little white 
puifs of smoke from their rifles. The rattle of firing 
rolled across the line and back again, and then it 
broke into just general firing. I still couldnt see what 
they were shooting at, specially not now that the 
smoke was banking up and drifting back against us 
with a stink like burning feathers. 

Then, for the first time since we left Corinth, bugles 
begun to blare and it passed to the double. The line 
wavered like a shaken rope, gaining in places and 
lagging in others and all around me they were yelling 
those wild crazy yells. General Cleburne was on his 
mare to our left, between us and the 5th Tennessee. 
He was waving his sword and the mare was plunging 
and tossing her mane. I could hear him hollering the 
same as he would when we did wrong on the drill 
field he had that thick, Irish way of speaking that 
came on him when he got mad. We were trotting 
by then. 

As we went forward we caught up with the 
skirmishers. They had given around a place where 
the ground was flat and dark green and there was 
water in the grass, sparkling like silver. It was a bog. 



We gave to the right to stay on hard ground and the 
5th Tennessee gave to the left; the point of swampland 
was between us, growing wider as we went. General 
Clebnme rode straight ahead, waving his sword and 
bawling at us to close the gap, close the gap, and 
before he knew what had separated us, the mare was 
pastern-deep in it, floundering and bucking to get rid 
of the general's weight. He was waving his sword 
with one hand and shaking his fist at us with the 
other, so that when the mare gave an extra hard buck 
General Cleburne went flying off her nigh side and 
landed on his hands and knees in the mud. We could 
hear him cussing across two hundred yards of bog. 
The last I saw of him he was walking out, still waving 
the sword, picking his knees high and sinking almost 
to his boot-tops every step. His face was red as fire. 
The brigade was split, two regiments on the right 
and four on the left, with a swamp between us; we 
would have to charge the high ground from two sides. 
By this time we had passed around where the other 
slope came out to a point leading down to the bog 
and we couldnt even see the other regiments. When 
we hit the rise we begun to run. I could hear Colonel 
Thornton puffing like a switch engine and I thought 
to myself, He's too old for this. Nobody was shooting 
yet because we didnt see anything to shoot at; we 
were so busy trying to keep up, we didnt have a 



chance to see anything at all. The line was crooked 
as a ram's horn. Some men were pushing out front 
and others were beginning to breathe hard and lag 
behind. My heart was hammering at my throat it 
seemed like every breath would bust my lungs. I 
passed a fat fellow holding his side and groaning. At 
first I thought he was shot, but then I realized he just 
had a stitch. It was Burt Tapley, the one everybody 
jibed about how much he ate; he was a great one for 
the sutlers. Now all that fine food, canned peaches 
and suchlike, was staring him in the face. 

When we were halfway up the rise I begun to see 
black shapes against the rim where it sloped off sharp. 
At first I thought they were scarecrows they looked 
like scarecrows. That didnt make sense, except they 
looked so black and stick-like. Then I saw they were 
moving, wiggling, and the rim broke out with smoke, 
some of it going straight up and some jetting toward 
our line, rolling and jumping with spits of fire mixed 
in and a humming like wasps past my ears. I thought: 
Lord to God, theyre shooting; theyre shooting at me! 
And it surprised me so, I stopped to look. The smoke 
kept rolling up and out, rolling and rolling, still with 
the stabs of fire mixed in, and some of the men passed 
me, bent forward like they were running into a high 
wind, rifles held crossways so that the bayonets 



glinted and snapped In the sunlight, and their faces 
were all out of shape from the yelling. 

When I stopped I begun to hear all sorts of things 
I hadnt heard while I was running. It was like being 
born again, coming into a new world. There was a 
great crash and clatter of firing, and over all this I 
could hear them all around me, screaming and yelping 
like on a foxhunt except there was something crazy 
mixed up in it too, like horses trapped in a burning 
barn. I thought theyd all gone crazy they looked it, 
for a fact. Their faces were split wide open with 
screaming, mouths twisted every which way, and this 
wild lunatic yelping coming out. It wasnt like they 
were yelling with their mouths: it was more like the 
yelling was something pent up inside them and they 
were opening their mouths to let it out. That was the 
first time I really knew how scared I was. 

If I'd stood there another minute, hearing all this, 
I would have gone back. I thought: Luther, you got 
no business mixed up in all this ruckus. This is all 
crazy, I thought. But a big fellow I never saw before 
ran into me full tilt, knocking me forward so hard 
I nearly went sprawling. He looked at me sort of 
desperate, like I was a post or something that got in 
the way, and went by, yelling. By the time I got my 
balance I was stumbling forward, so I just kept going. 
And that was better. I found that as long as I was 



moving I was all right, because then I didnt hear so 
much or even see so much. Moving, it was more like 
I was off to myself, with just my own particular 

I kept passing men lying on the ground, and at first 
I thought they were winded, like the fat one that 
was the way they looked to me. But directly I saw a 
corporal with the front of his head mostly gone, what 
had been under his skull spilling over his face, and I 
knew they were down because they were hurt. Every 
now and then there would be one just sitting there 
holding an arm or leg and groaning. Some of them 
would reach out at us and even call us by name, but 
we stayed clear. For some reason we didnt like them, 
not even the sight of them. I saw Lonny Parker that 
I grew up with; he was holding his stomach, bawling 
like a baby, his face all twisted and big tears on his 
cheeks. But it wasnt any different with Lonny I 
stayed clear of him too, just like I'd never known 
him, much less grown up with him back in Jordan 
County. It wasnt a question of luck, the way some 
folks will tell you; they will tell you it's bad luck 
to be near the wounded. It was just that we didnt 
want to be close to them any longer than it took to 
run past, the way you wouldnt want to be near 
someone who had something catching, like smallpox. 

We were almost to the rim by then and I saw 


clear enough that they werent scarecrows that was 
a foolish thing to think anyhow. They were men, 
with faces and thick blue uniforms. It was only a 
glimpse, though, because then we gave them a volley 
and smoke rolled out between us. When we came 
through the smoke they were gone except the ones 
who were on the ground. They lay in every position, 
like a man I saw once that had been drug out on bank 
after he was run over by a steamboat and the paddies 
hit him. We were running and yelling, charging 
across the flat ground where white canvas tents 
stretched out in an even row. The racket was louder 
now, and then I knew why. It was because I was 
yelling too, crazy and blood-curdled as the rest of 

I passed one end of the row of tents. That must 
have been where their officers stayed, for breakfast 
was laid on a table there with a white cloth nice as a 
church picnic. When I saw the white-flour biscuits 
and the coffee I understood why people called them 
the Feds and us the Corn-feds. I got two of the bis- 
cuits (I had to grab quick; everybody was snatching at 
them) and while I was stuffing one in my mouth and 
the other in my pocket, I saw Burt Tapley. He'd 
caught up when we stopped to give them that volley, 
I reckon, and he was holding the coffee pot like a 
loving-cup, drinking scalding coffee in big gulps. It 



ran from both corners of his mouth, down onto the 
breast of his uniform. 

Officers were running around waving their swords 
and hollering. "Form!" they yelled at us. "Form for 
attack!" But nobody paid them much mind we were 
too busy rummaging the tents. So they begun to lay 
about with the flats of their swords, driving us away 
from the plunder. It didnt take long. When we were 
formed in line again, reloading our guns, squads and 
companies mixed every which way, they led us 
through the row of tents at a run. All around me, men 
were tripping on the ropes and cussing and barking 
their shins on the stakes. Then we got through and I 
saw why the officers had been yelling for us to form. 

There was a gang of Federal soldiers standing 
shoulder to shoulder in the field beyond the tents. I 
thought it was the whole Yankee army, lined up 
waiting for us. Those in front were kneeling under 
the guns of the men in the second line, a great bank of 
blue uniforms and rifle barrels and white faces like 
rows of eggs, one above another. When they fired, 
the smoke came at us in a solid wall. Things plucked 
at my clothes and twitched my hat, and when I 
looked around I saw men all over the ground, in the 
same ugly positions as the men back on the slope, 
moaning and whimpering, clawing at the grass. Some 



were gut-shot, making high yelping sounds like a 
turpentined dog. 

Smoke was still thick when the second volley came. 
For a minute I thought I was the only one left alive. 
Then I saw the others through the smoke, making for 
the rear, and I ran too, back toward the tents and the 
slope where we'd come up. They gave us another 
volley as we ran but it was high; I could hear the balls 
screech over my head. I cleared the ridge on the run, 
and when I came over I saw them stopping* I pulled 
up within twenty yards or so and lay flat on the 
ground, panting. 

No bullets were falling here but everybody laid low 
because they were crackling and snapping in the air 
over our heads on a line with the rim where our men 
were still coming over. They would come over pre- 
pared to run another mile, and then they would see 
us lying there and they would try to stop, stumbling 
and sliding downhill. 

I saw one man come over, running sort of straddle- 
legged, and just as he cleared the rim I saw the front 
of his coat jump where the shots came through. He 
was running down the slope, stone dead already, the 
way a deer will do when it's shot after picking up 
speed. This man kept going for nearly fifty yards 
downhill before his legs stopped pumping and he 
crashed into the ground on his stomach. I could see his 



face as he ran, and there was no doubt about It, no 
doubt at all: he was dead and I could see it In his face. 

That scared me worse than anything up to then. 
It wasnt really all that bad, looking back on it: It 
was just that he'd been running when they shot 
him and his drive kept him going down the slope. 
But it seemed so wrong, so scandalous, somehow so 
unreligious for a dead man to have to keep on fighting 
or running, anyhow that it made me sick at my 
stomach. I didnt want to have any more to do with 
the war if this was the way it was going to be. 

They had told us we would push them back to 
the river. Push, they said; that was the word they 
used. I really thought we were going to push them 
with bullets and bayonets of course, and of course I 
knew there were going to be men killed: I even 
thought I might get killed myself; it crossed my mind 
a number of times. But it wasnt the way they said. 
It wasnt that way at all. Because even the dead and 
dying didnt have any decency about them first the 
Yankees back on the slope, crumpled and muddy 
where their own men had overrun them, then the 
men in the field beyond the tents, yelping like gut- 
shot dogs while they died, and now this one, this 
big fellow running straddle-legged and stofte cold 
dead in the face, that wouldnt stop running even after 
he'd been killed. 



I was what you might call unnerved, for they may 
warn you there's going to be bleeding in battle but 
you dont believe It till you see the blood. What hap- 
pened from then on was all mixed up in the smoke. 
We formed again and went back through the tents. 
But the same thing happened: they were there, just as 
before, and when they threw that wall of smoke and 
humming bullets at us, we came running back down 
the slope. Three times we went through and it was 
the same every time. Finally a fresh brigade came up 
from the reserve and we went through together. 

This trip was different we could tell it even before 
we got started. We went through the smoke and the 
bullets, and that was the first time we used bayonets. 
For a minute it was jab and slash, everyone yelling 
enough to curdle your blood just with the shrillness. I 
was running, bent low with the rifle held out front, 
the way they taught me, and all of a sudden I saw I 
was going to have it with a big Yank wearing his 
coat unbuttoned halfway, showing a red flannel 
undershirt. I was running and he was waiting, braced, 
and it occurred to me, the words shooting through 
my mind: What kind of a man is this, would wear a 
red wool undershirt in April? 

I saw his face from below, but he had bent down 
and his eyebrows were drawn in a straight line like a 
black bar over his eyes. He was full-grown, with a 



wide brown mustache; I could see the individual 
hairs on each side of the shaved line down the middle, 
Fd have had to say Sir to him back home. Then 
something hit my arm a jar I stumbled against him, 
lifting my rifle and falling sideways. Ee! Fm killed! 
I thought. He turned with me and we were falling, 
first a slow fall the way it is in dreams, then sudden, 
and the ground came up and hit me: ho! We were 
two feet apart, looking at each other. He seemed 
even bigger now, up close, and there was something 
wrong with the way he looked. Then I saw why. 

My bayonet had gone in under his jaw, the hand- 
guard tight against the bottom of his chin, and the 
point must have stuck in his head bone because he 
appeared to be trying to open his mouth but couldnt, 
It was like he had a mouthful of something bitter and 
couldnt spit his eyes were screwed up, staring at me 
and blinking a bit from the strain. All I could do was 
look at him; I couldnt look away, no matter how I 
tried. A man will look at something that is making him 
sick but he cant stop looking until he begins to vomit 
something holds him. That was the way it was with 
me. Then, while I was watching him, this fellow 
reached up and touched the handle of the bayonet 
under his chin. He touched it easy, using the tips of 
his fingers, tender-like. I could see he wanted to grab 



and pull It out but he was worried about how much it 
would hurt and he didnt dare. 

I let go of the rifle and rolled away. There were 
bluecoats running across the field and through the 
woods beyond. All around me men were kneeling 
and shooting at them like rabbits as they ran. Captain 
Plummer and two lieutenants were the only officers 
left on their feet. Two men were bent over Colonel 
Thornton where they had propped him against a tree 
with one of his legs laid crooked. Captain Plummer 
wasnt limping now he'd forgotten his blisters, I 
reckon. He wasnt even hurt, so far as I could see, but 
the skirt of his coat was ripped where somebody had 
taken a swipe at him with a bayonet or a saber. 

He went out into the open with a man carrying the 
colors, and then begun to wave his sword and caE in 
a high voice: "6th Mississippi, wally here! 6th Missis- 
sippi, wally here!" 

Men begun straggling over, collecting round the 
flag, so I got up and went over with them. We were 
a sorry lot. My feet were so heavy I could barely lift 
them, and I had to carry rny left arm with my right, 
the way a baby would cradle a doll. The captain 
kept calling, "Wally here! 6th Mississippi, wally 
here!" but after a while he saw there werent any 
more to rally so he gave it up. There were a little 
over a hundred of us, all that were left out of the 



four hundred and twenty-five that went in an hour 

Our faces were gray, the color of ashes. Some had 
powder burns red on their cheeks and foreheads and 
running back into singed patches in their hair. Mouths 
were rimmed with grime from biting cartridges, 
mostly a long smear down one corner, and hands 
were blackened with burnt powder off the ramrods. 
We'd aged a lifetime since the sun came up. Captain 
Plummer was calling us to rally, rally here, but there 
wasnt much rally left in us. There wasnt much left 
in me, anyhow. I felt so tired it was all I could do 
to make it to where the flag was. I was worried, too, 
about not having my rifle. I remembered what Ser- 
geant Tyree was always saying: "Your rifle is your 
best friend. Take care of it." But if that meant pulling 
it out of the man with the mustache, it would just 
have to stay there. Then I looked down and be durn 
if there wasnt one just like it at my feet. I picked it 
up, stooping and nursing my bad arm, and stood 
there with it. 

Joe Marsh was next to me. At first I didnt know 
him. He didnt seem bad hurt, but he had a terrible 
look around the eyes and there was a knot on his 
forehead the size of a walnut where some Yank had 
bopped him with a rifle butt. I thought to ask him 
how the Tennessee breed of elephant compared with 


the Kentucky breed, but I didnt. He looked at me, 
first in the face till he finally recognized me, then 
down at my arm. 

"You better get that tended to." 

"It dont hurt much, 55 I said. 

"All right. Have it your way." 

He didnt pay me any mind after that. He had 
lorded it over me for a month about being a green- 
horn, yet here I was, just gone through meeting as 
big an elephant as any he had met, and he was still 
trying the same high-and-mightiness. He was mad 
now because he wasnt the only one who had seen 
some battle. He'd had his big secret to throw up to 
us, but not any more. We all had it now. 

We were milling around like ants when their hill 
is upset, trying to fall-in the usual way, by platoons 
and squads, but some were all the way gone and others 
had only a couple of men. So we gave that up and 
just fell-in in three ranks, not even making a good- 
sized company. Captain Plummer went down the line, 
looking to see who was worst hurt. He looked at the 
way I was holding my arm. "Bayonet?" 

"Yes sir." 

"Cut you bad?" 

"It dont hurt much, captain. I just cant lift it no 
higher than this. 55 

He looked me in the face, and I was afraid he 



thought I was lying to keep from fighting any more. 
"All wight/' he said. "Fall out and join the others 
under that twee," 

There were about two dozen of us under it when he 
got through, including some that hadnt been able to 
get in ranks in the first place. They were hacked up 
all kinds of ways. One had lost an ear and he was 
the worst worried man of the lot; "Does it look bad?" 
he kept asking, wanting to know how it would seem 
to the folks back home. We sat under the tree and 
watched Captain Plummer march what was left of 
the regiment away. They were a straggly lot. We 
were supposed to wait there under the tree till the 
doctor came. 

We waited, hearing rifles clattering and cannons 
booming and men yelling further and further in the 
woods, and the sun climbed up and it got burning 
hot. I could look back over the valley where we 
had charged. It wasnt as wide as it had been before. 
There were men left all along the way, lying like 
bundles of dirty clothes. I had a warm, lazy feeling, 
like on a summer Sunday in the scuppernong arbor 
back home; next thing I knew I was sound asleep. 
Now that was strange. I was never one for sleeping 
in the daytime, not even in that quiet hour after dinner 
when all the others were taking their naps. 

When I woke up the sun was past the overhead and 



only a dozen or so of the wounded were still there. 
The fellow next to me (he was hurt in the leg) said 
they had drifted off to find a doctor. "Aint no doctor 
coming here/ 5 he said. "They aint studying us now 
we're no more good to them." He had a flushed look, 
like a man in a fever, and he was mad at the whole 
army, from General Johnston down to me. 

My arm was stiff and the blood had dried on 
my sleeve. There was just a slit where the bayonet 
blade went in. It felt itchy, tingling in all directions 
from the cut, like the spokes of a wheel, but I still 
hadnt looked at it and I wasnt going to. All except 
two of the men under the tree were leg wounds, not 
counting myself, and those two were shot up bad 
around the head. One was singing a song about the 
bells of Tennessee but it didnt make much sense. 

"Which way did they go?" 

"Ever which way," one said. 

"Yonder ways, mostly," another said, and pointed 
over to the right. The shooting was a long way off 
now, loudest toward the right front. It seemed reason- 
able that the doctors would be near the loudest 

I thought I would be dizzy when I stood up but I felt 
fine, light on my feet and tingly from not having 
moved for so long. I walked away nursing my arm. 
When I reached the edge of the field I looked back. 


They were spread around the tree trunk, sprawled 
out favoring their wounds. I could hear that crazy one 
singing the Tennessee song. 

I walked on, getting more and more light-headed, 
till finally it felt like I was walking about six inches 
off the ground. I thought I was still asleep, dreaming, 
except for the ache in my arm. And I saw things no 
man would want to see twice. There were dead men 
all around, Confederate and Union, some lying where 
they fell and others up under bushes where theyd 
crawled to keep from getting trampled. There were 
wounded men too, lots of them, wandering around 
like myself, their faces dazed and pale from losing 
blood and being scared. 

I told myself: You better lay down before you fall 
down. Then I said: No, youre not bad hurt; keep 
going. It was like an argument, two voices inside my 
head and neither one of them mine: 

You better lay down. 

No: you feel fine. 

Youll -fall and iheyll never -find you. 

Thats not true. Youre just a little light-headed. 
Youll be all right. 

No you wont. Youre hurt. Youre hurt worse than 
you think. Lay down. 

They went on like that, arguing, and I followed 
the road, heading south by the sun until I came to 


a log cabin with a cross on its ridgepole and a 
little wooden signboard, hand-lettered: Shiloh Meeting 
House. It most have been some kind of headquarters 
now because there were officers inside, bending over 
maps, and messengers kept galloping up with papers. 

I took a left where the road forked, and just beyond 
the fork there was a sergeant standing with the reins 
of two horses going back over his shoulder. When I 
came up he looked at me without saying anything. 

"Where is a doctor? 59 I asked him. My voice 
sounded strange from not having used it for so long. 

"I dont know, bud," he said. But he jerked his 
thumb down the road toward the sound of the guns. 
"Should be some of them up there, back of where 
the fighting is." He was a Texan, by the sound of his 
voice; it came partly through his nose. 

So I went on down the road. It had been a Hne of 
battle that morning, the dead scattered thick on both 
sides. I was in a fever by then, thinking crazy, and it 
seemed to me that all the dead men got there this way: 

God was making men and every now and then He 
would do a bad job on one, and He would look at it 
and say, "This one wont do," and He would toss 
it in a tub He kept there, maybe not even finished 
with it. And finally, 6 April 1862, the tub got full 
and God emptied it right out of heaven and they 
landed here, along this road, tumbled down in all 


positions, some without arms and legs, some with their 
heads and bodies split open where they hit the ground 
so hard. 

I was in a fever bad, to think a thing like that. So 
there's no telling how long I walked or how far, but 
I know I came near covering that battlefield from 
flank to flank. It must have been a couple of hours 
and maybe three miles, but far as I was concerned 
it could have been a year and a thousand miles. At 
first all I wanted was a doctor. Finally I didnt even 
want that. All I wanted was to keep moving. I had 
an idea if I stopped I wouldnt be able to start again. 
That kept me going. 

I didnt notice much along the way, but once I 
passed an open space with a ten-acre peach orchard 
in bloom at the far end and cannons puffing smoke 
up through the blossoms. Great crowds of men were 
trying to reach the orchard they would march up in 
long lines and melt away; there would be a pause and 
then other lines would march up and melt away. Then 
I was past all this, in the woods again, and I came to 
a little gully where things were still and peaceful, 
like in another world almost; the guns seemed far 
away. That was the place for me to stop, if any place 
was. I sat down, leaning back against a stump, and all 
the weariness came down on me at once. I knew I 



wouldnt get up then, not even if I could, but I didnt 

I didnt mind anything. It was like I was somewhere 
outside myself, looking back. I had reached the stage 
where a voice can tell you it is over, youre going to 
die, and that is all right too. Dying is as good as living, 
maybe better. The main thing is to be left alone, and 
if it takes dying to be let alone, a man thinks: All 
right, let me die. He thinks: Let me die, then. 

This gully was narrow and deep, really a little val- 
ley, less than a hundred yards from ridge to ridge. 
The trees were thick but I could see up to the crest 
in each direction. There were some dead men and 
some wounded scattered along the stream that ran 
through, but I think they must have crawled in after 
water there hadnt been any fighting here and there 
werent any bullets in the trees. I leaned back against 
the stump, holding my arm across my lap and facing 
the forward ridge. Then I saw two horsemen come 
over, side by side, riding close together, one leaning 
against the other. The second had his arm around the 
first, holding him in the saddle. 

The second man was in civilian clothes, a boxback 
coat and a wide black hat. It was Governor Harris; 
I used to see him when he visited our brigade to talk 
to the Tennessee boys electioneering, he called it; he 
was the Governor of Tennessee. The first man had his 



head down, reeling in the saddle, but I could see the 
braid on his sleeves and the wreath of stars on his 
collar. Then he lolled the other way, head rolling, 
and I saw him full in the face. It was General 

His horse was shot up, wounded in three legs, and 
his uniform had little rips in the cape and trouser-legs 
where minie balls had nicked him. One bootsole 
flapped loose, cut crossways almost through. In his 
right hand he held a tin cup, one of his fingers still 
hooked through the handle. I heard about the cup 
afterwards he got it earlier in the day. He was riding 
through a captured camp and one of his lieutenants 
came out of a Yank colonePs tent and showed him a 
fine brier pipe he'd found there. General Johnston 
said "None of that, Sir. We are not here for plunder." 
Then he must have seen he'd hurt the lieutenant's 
feelings, for he leaned down from his horse and picked 
up this tin cup off a table and said, "Let this be my 
share of the spoils today," and used it instead of a 
sword to direct the battle. 

They came down the ridge and stopped under 
a big oak at the bottom, near where I was, and 
Governor Harris got off between the horses and eased 
the general down to the ground. He began to ask 
questions, trying to make him answer, but he wouldnt 
couldnt. He undid the general's collar and unfas- 



tened his clothes, trying to find where he was shot, 
but he couldnt find it. He took out a bottle and tried 
to make him drink (it was brandy; I could smell it) 
but he wouldnt swallow, and when Governor Harris 
turned his head the brandy ran out of Ms month. 

Then a tall man, wearing the three stars of a colonel, 
came hurrying down the slope, making straight for 
where General Johnston was laid out on the ground. 
He knelt down by his side, leaning forward so that 
their faces were close together, eye to eye, and begun 
to nudge him on the shoulder and speak to him in a 
shaky voice: "Johnston, do you know me? Johnston, 
do you know me?" 

But the general didnt know him; the general was 
dead. He still looked handsome, lying there with his 
eyes glazing over. 


4 Private Otto FHckner 

Cannoneer, ist Minnesota Battery 

He would have reached about to my chin if he'd 
stood up, but he wouldnt; he just sat there. When I 
asked him to rise and take his punishment for calling 
me a coward, hp said: "If youre so allfired brave, 
sonny, what you doing back here with us skulkers 

"I aint scared the way you made out," I said. "Pm 
what they call demoralized." 


"It's just I lost my confidence." 

"Yair?" He kept saying that. 

"Get up here, I'll show you." 

But he wouldnt. He just sat there hugging his knees 
and looking at me with a lop-sided grin on his face. 
"If what you want's a fight, go up the bluff. Thats 
where the fighting is." Then he said, still grinning: 



"Ive already showed the whole wide world Fm 

I intended to jump him, sitting or no, but what 
can you do when a man talks like that? saying right 
out in front of God and everybody that he's scared; 
it would be the same as fighting something you found 
when you picked up a rotted log. The others thought 
it was fun, guffawed at hearing him talk that way. 
They could laugh about it now they had got used 
to being scared and now they made jokes about it. 

They would come down from above looking shame- 
faced but after a while, when theyd been down here 
an hour, theyd brighten up and begin to bluster, 
bragging about how long they held their ground 
before they broke. "Ive done my part," theyd say, 
wagging their heads. But they were all thinking the 
selfsame thing: / might be a disgrace to my country. 
I might be a coward , even. But Pm not up there in 
those woods getting shot at. 

And I must admit I had it reasoned the same way. 
You would form at the warning and get set for some 
honest fighting, stand up and slug, and theyd come 
squalling that wild crazy yell not even human, 
hardly and you would stand there at the guns 
throwing solid shot, then canister and grape, holding 
them good. And then, sure enough, word would 
come to bring up the horses: it was time to retire to 


a new position because some paddle-foot outfit on 
your left or right was giving way and you had to 
fall back to keep from getting captured- Twice was 
all right you thought maybe that was the way it 
was supposed to be. But three times was once too 
often. Men began to walk away, making for the 
rear. When Lieutenant Pfaender called to them to 
stand-to theyd just keep walking, not even looking 
round. So finally, after the third time, I walked too. So 
much is enough but a little bit more is too much. 

There were ten thousand of us under the bluff 
before the day was through ( thats the number I 
heard told and I believe it) some scrunched down 
on the sand where the bluff reared up a hundred feet 
in the air, others going along the riverbank down- 
stream to where they could wade or swim the creek 
and get away. "I killed as many of them as they did 
of me," some said, and laughed. AH the time there 
was this thumping of guns and this ripping sound of 
rifles from up above, and every now and then the 
rebel cheering would get louder when they took 
another camp. 

We were all ranks down here, though you couldnt 
tell just which in most cases because they had torn 
off their chevrons and shoulder straps and all you 
could see was the broken threads that had held them 
on. In some cases you couldnt even tell that, for theyd 



even picked the threads out, those that had the time. 
But that didnt work either because you could still 
see the darker patches where the sun and rain had 
weathered the cloth around the place where theyd 
been sewed. 

They made a complaint, blaming their officers and 
telling how the lieutenants and captains didnt know 
any more about soldiering than the privates. When 
they first came down they would keep their backs 
turned, not speaking to anybody, still trembling from 
the scare. But after a while theyd look around and 
begin to feel better. Then they would start talking, 
just a little at first, sort of feeling the others out, then 
all together, every man trying to tell his story at the 
same time. They collected in groups of anywhere 
from three to thirty, hunkered up side by side and 
talking or just sitting there looking to see who they 
could recognize in the crowd. When they saw some- 
body they knew, their eyes would say: If you wont 
tell on me 1 wont on you, but not out loud. 

There were five in the group I joined, not counting 
the dog. The man that had him said he was a 
Tennessee hound, a redbone, but he looked more like 
a Tennessee walking-horse. At first I thought he was 
shot up bad: there was clotted blood and patches of 
torn skin all over his hide. But the fellow said he 
wasnt even scratched. "He's demoralized like you," 



the fellow said, grinning. Then he told how it hap- 

"I was on Guard last night/' he said. He had that 
Ohio way of talking, bearing down hard on the R's. 
"We come off post at four and went to our bunks at 
the back of the guard tent. Just before dawn my Ten- 
nessee quickstep signaled me a hurry-up call for the 
bushes, and when I went out I saw the officer of the 
day (Captain Fountain, from up at Regimental) sit- 
ting at the table out front, writing a letter by lamp- 
light. The dog was at his feet, asleep, but when I went 
past he raised his head and looked at me with those 
big round yellow eyes, then dropped his jaw back on 
his paws and went to sleep again. When I come back 
he didnt even look up. He was our mascot, knew 
every man in the 53d by sight. We named him Bango 
the day he joined up. Well, I woke up it was day- 
light and all outside the tent there was a racket and a 
booming. TThats cannon,' I said to myself, still half 
asleep; 'we're attackted!' and grabbed my gun and 
started for the front of the tent But there was a ter- 
rible bang and a flash before I got there, smoke enough 
to blind you. It cleared some then and I saw what 
had happened. A rebel shell had come through the tent 
fly and landed square on top of Captain Fountain. It 
went off in his lap before he had time to so much as 
know what hit him. There wasnt much of him left. 



It blew blood and guts all over the dog, scared him so 
bad he wasnt even howling he was just laying there 
making little whimpering sounds, bloody as a stuck 
hog, trembling all over and breathing in shallow pants. 
I went out and formed with the others. But soon as 
Colonel Appier seen the johnnies coming across the 
field, he got down behind a log and hollered: 'Retreat! 
Save yourselves! 7 Well, I know a sensible order when 
I hear one, and if anybody asks me what I'm doing 
back here, Fll say Tm where my colonel sent me, 
Which is more than most of you can say. On the 
way to the rear I passed the guard tent again and there 
was Bango the same as before, laying there whimper- 
ing with the captain's blood all over him. So I brought 
him back here with me to see could he get himself 
together again. But he dont seem to be doing so good, 
does he?" 

He reached down and stroked the dog on the 
muzzle, but Bango didnt pay him any heed. He just 
lay there, belly close to the sand, breathing quick 
little breaths up high in his throat, eyes all rimmed 
with red. I could see his hide quiver under the dried 

I said, c< Whynt you take him down to the river 
and wash him off?" 

"Well, I dont know," the Ohio man said. "I think 



maybe if he gets another shock he might start snap- 

Seeing the size of those jaws, I couldnt blame Mm. 
After all, when you came right down to it, he was a 
Rebel dog anyhow. There was no telling <a?Awf he'd 

The other three men had told their stories, and they 
were all three pretty much the same. They told how 
they had stayed in line and fought till they saw it was 
no use staying, and went. I told how it had been with 
me, how I hung on till things came to pieces that third 
time, and then walked off the same as the others had 
done. I told them what Sergeant Buterbaugh had said 
about the men that were walking away, that they 
werent necessarily cowards; they were just demoral- 
ized from losing their confidence. That was when this 
Michigander said it was all hogwash. We were all 
cowards back here, he said and then wouldnt get up 
and fight. 

When it began we were in position on the right of 
the Corinth road at the edge of a strip of woods where 
our tents were pitched. There was a big open field on 
the left of the road. Captain Hickenlooper's Ohio 
battery was advanced into the field. The infantry was 
in camp along our front and some more were in our 
rear. We'd been there two days. 

At three oclock that morning I lay warm in my 



blankets and heard the advance party going out on a 
scout. I knew the time for I took out granddaddy's 
watch and looked at it. This party was going out 
because General Prentiss had had a feeling ail the day 
before that something spooky was going on out front. 
I went back to sleep then, feeling glad I was in the 
artillery and didnt have to be up beating the bushes 
for rebs at blue oclock in the morning. Almost before 
I had time to know I was asleep I heard them coming 
back and the long roll sounding. 

By sunup we were posted at the guns, watching the 
infantry come past. They had a serious look on their 
faces but they still could joke with us. "You easy- 
living boys had better get set," they said. "There's 
johnnies out there thicker than fleas on a billy goat in 
a baralot." 

We didnt see them, though, for a long time. This 
was what we'd been training for all those weeks of 
rollcall and drill, greasing caissons and gun carriages, 
tending the horses and standing inspection, cleaning 
limber chests and sorting ammunition. We were down- 
right glad it had come, and all the fellows began mak- 
ing jokes at one another about who was going to funk 
it. The Hickenlooper boys would call over to us, 
wanting to know how Minnesota was feeling today, 
and we'd call back, telling them theyd better be worry- 



ing about Ohio; Minnesota was all right; Minnesota 
could take care of herself. 

All this time there was a ruckus over on the right. 
It rolled back and forth, getting louder and more 
furious with yelling mixed up in it. But still they didnt 
come. We kept expecting word to limber and move 
in the direction of the firing. We didnt like it, waiting 
that way. It was the same old story hurry up; wait 
while the sound of the shooting swelled and died 
and swelled again. Everybody began asking questions: 
"Aim they coming this way, Butterball?" 
"Yak, sergeant: when are they coming this way?" 
"Bide your time," he said. "Theyll be here all right." 
"I wish if they was coming theyd come on." 
"Theyll be here," Sergeant Buterbaugh said. 
He was a college man, up for a commission, and to 
tell the truth I never liked him. But he had a way of 
saying things he knew all the stars, for instance, and 
could tell you their names. 

Sure enough, soon as the words were out of his 
mouth the infantry began popping away and smoke 
began lazing up from the bushes out front. I couldnt 
see what they were shooting at. Far as I could tell, 
they were banging away at nothing to keep themselves 
amused the way pickets sometimes do. Captain Munch 
walked up and down, going from gun to gun and 
saying, "Steady. Steady, men," like he thought we 



might take a notion to go into a dance or something. 
We stood at cannoneers' posts, ready to fire whenever 
he gave us a target. I was on the handspike because of 
my size. Then the firing stepped up. Smoke began to 
rol and drift back against us. There was a high yip- 
ping sound somewhere out in front of the smoke, like 
a cage full of beagles at feeding time. 

They didnt come the way I thought at all. I thought 
it would be the same as on parade, long lines of men 
marching with their flags spanking the wind, sleeves 
and pants legs flapping in cadence, and us standing at 
our posts the way it was in gun drill, mowing them 
down. But they didnt come like that. They came in 
driblets, scattered all across the front and through the 
woods, no two of them moving the same way, run- 
ning from bush to bush like mice or rabbits. No sooner 
Fd see a man than he would be gone again. The only 
thing that stayed put was the smoke it boiled up a 
dirty gray and rolled along the ground with little 
stabs of yellow and pink flicking in it where the 
muzzles flashed. There was a humming in the air like 
in the orchard back home when the bees swarmed, 
only more so. 

But Captain Munch began to sing out commands, 
and from then on it was hot work, ram and prime and 
touch her off, roll her back and load again. All six 
guns were going full time, throwing big balls of fire 



and smoke out over the battery front, and we were 
cheering while we fired. I couldnt see it very well 
but the captain was bringing us in on a regiment 
drawn up at the far end of the field. We had the range, 
about a thousand yards, and we could see the flags go 
down fluttering and the men milling around while 
the balls chewed up their ranks. 

During a pause, while I stood at the trail and the 
rest were out front swabbing the bore, \ looked over 
to the right and saw the gun in the next platoon lying 
on its side, one of its wheels splintered to the hub and 
the other one canted up at an angle. I couldnt think 
what had done that to it, except maybe a premature, 
when all of a sudden the ground between the two 
guns flicked up, throwing dirt at me the way water 
would splash if you slapped it with a plank, and when 
I opened my eyes there was a little trench scooped 
out, about eight inches wide and maybe half that deep, 
and I knew what did it. Nothing but a cannonbaU did 
that there must be a rebel battery ranging in on us. 
But if I wasnt sure then I knew it soon after, for here 
came another one and I saw it coming: a ricochet it 
bounced along, whooing and bouncing, hitting the 
ground every twenty feet or so. I got the wild idea it 
somehow had a mind of its own. 

Thats coming my way, I thought. That one's for 



But it struck in front, took an extra hard bounce, 
and sailed right over the gun, exactly down the line 
of the tube and the trail I could almost feel it in my 
hair. It made a whuffing sound going over; I could 
see the fuze lobbing around on one side of it, sputter- 
ing. I looked to see where it was going and saw it go 
past Captain Munch on the bounce, spinning him 
around sideways like a man hit by a runaway horse, 
and go on into the woods, rooting and banging the 
trees till it went off with a big orange-colored flash, 
the fragments singing, clipping leaves and twigs. 
Captain Munch just laid there and directly some men 
ran over and picked him up and carried him off to 
one side. 

Then there were infantry running between the 
guns. Some looked back over their shoulders every 
now and then as they ran, but most of them had their 
heads down, going hard for the rear without their 
rifles. Their faces were pale as paper, their eyes kind 
of wild-looking, like a child's when you say Boo at 
him coming round a corner. There were horses mixed 
up in it (I had forgot there were horses in war; it 
seemed all wrong) and Sergeant Buterbaugh had me 
by the arm, shaking me, and I could see his mouth 
moving but the words did not get through. The 
horses kicked and plunged and I saw what it was. 
They were limbering for a displacement. I snagged a 

1 08 


caisson getting under way and held on tight while it 
jounced and rattled across the furrows of a field. I was 
so busy trying to stay on ( we lost two that way; 
they flew off, arms outstretched like big birds, and 
landed in the dust, not making a sound) I didnt see 
where we were going. Next thing I knew, we were 
off to the side of the road preparing for action again, 
only this time we had four guns instead of six and now 
Lieutenant Pfaender was battery commander. 

"Action rear!" Sergeant Buterbaugh was yelling. 
The horses were lathered and blown. "Action rear! n 

But it was the same thing again, the same identical 
business. By the time we got off a few rounds, the 
infantry began passing us with that scared look on 
their faces. And there was the same mixup when the 
johnnies got our range. The horses came plunging up 
with the bits in their teeth, and then we were limbered 
and off again. The only real difference was that this 
time we didnt lose any guns or men. It seemed that 
just when we got set to do some good, word came 
down to clear out or be captured. 

The third position was different. It was near midday 
by then and General Prentiss had drawn the whole 
division in a line along an old sunken road that wound 
through the woods. What was left of our battery was 
split in two, one section two hundred yards beyond 
the other, both just in rear of the road and the line of 



infantry. They had their dander up now, they said; 
they didnt intend to give up any more ground. Every 
man built a little pile of cartridges beside him and 
lay down in the sunken road with his rifle up on the 
shoulder. "Let 'em come on no<w" they said, talking 
through their gritted teeth. Their mouths were set 
kind of rigid-like but there was still a worried look 
around their eyes. I wondered if they meant it. 

They meant it. We were there four hours, and 
surely that was the hardest fighting of this or any 
war. This time it was almost the way I had imagined 
it would be. They came at us in rows, flags flapping 
and everything, and we stood to our guns and cut 
them down. When we gave them a volley, rifles and 
cannon, their line would shake and weave from end 
to end like a wounded snake, and they would come 
on, trampling the blackberry bushes until we thought 
this time they were coming right over us, but then 
they would break and fall back over their dead and 
there would be a lull, but not for long, and they would 
come at us again. It didnt seem to me that they were 
men like us, not only because of the way they 
were dressed (they wore all kinds of uniforms; some 
even had on white we called these their graveyard 
clothes) but mostly because of the way they wouldnt 
stop. They took killing better than any natural men 
would ever do, and they had a way of yelling that 



didnt sound even partly human, high and quavery, 
away up in their throats, without any brain behind it* 

After we had been there three-four hours I began 
to notice that the gun was harder and harder to roll 
back into position. Fighting like that, you expected 
casualties. But then I saw that all the missing ones 
werent leaving because theyd been wounded. A man 
would stand there during a lull and there would be 
something come over his face like you see on the faces 
of children just before they bust out crying sort of 
bulged around the mouth and shifty-eyed and then 
he would start walking, not even looking round, not 
paying any attention to anyone that called out to him. 
He was heading for the rear; he'd had enough. He'd 
had enough and he didnt care who knew it. 

Corporal Keller was cussing and calling them 
cowards (it was during a lull; two more had just 
walked off) but Sergeant Buterbaugh said no, they 
werent necessarily cowards; they were just demoral- 
ized from losing confidence. He was always coming 
out with something like that, serious, high-sounding 
Butterball's jawbreakers, we called them. But this 
time he really hit the nail on the head. What he said 
stayed with me from then on, stayed in my mind, 
especially later when I was making for the rear my- 

I never would have done a thing like that, never in 



all the world, but when word came to prepare to dis- 
place again, it seemed like all the spark went out of 
me. Maybe it was gone already but I think not. I was 
proud of the way we'd held them I think that did 
it more than anything: to think youd done so well 
and then to be told it was all for nothing. All of a 
sudden I felt dog-tired, miserable. 

Sergeant Buterbaugh was looking at me a peculiar 
way, and I knew my face was showing the same 
thing all those other faces had showed. And I began 
to walk to the rear. Lieutenant Pfaender was calling 
after me: "Flickner! Flickner! " but I went on, through 
the blackjack scrubs. He called me again: "Flickner! 
Flickner!" but I went on. I suppose by then he saw I 
really meant it, the same as all the others, and then he 
didnt call me any more. 

My daddy took pride in telling how my grand- 
daddy had fought against Napoleon in the old 
country. It disappointed him that I never showed any 
interest in such things, that I wouldnt even bother to 
learn the language. Fd explain: "This is a new 
country. We dont need those stories from the old 
one." It seemed so wrong, so out of place, hearing 
about Napoleon, when I could see right through the 
living-room window the big rolling Minnesota 
prairie with the tall wheat shinmering in the sun- 
light. But it made him sad, hearing me say that; he'd 



shake his head from side to side and stroke Ms beard 
with a hurt look in his eyes, muttering German, 

When I joined up and came home with the enlist- 
ment paper to show him, he took the watch and chain 
off the front of his vest and gave it to me, showing 
me how to wind it in two places, one to make it keep 
time and the other to make it strike the hours. Two 
of my brothers had already signed up and left but he 
hadnt given it to them. "Here," he said. "Wear this, 
Otto. It was your grossfather's that he wore when he 
went against the man you dont want I should men- 
tion. I hope you will do as well with it against this 
Jeffy Davis." Youd have thought it was a gun or a 
sword or something. 

\ swapped the chain for a trip down the line in St 
Louis and hung the watch on a string around my neck. 
It was safer that way anyhow. And as I went back 
through the woods on the way to the Landing, feel- 
ing it bump against my chest beneath my jacket, I 
wondered if it ever ticked off any seconds for my 
granddaddy when he was running from Napoleon. 
You think strange things when something has hap- 
pened to you that you know is going to change your 
life. But I took some comfort remembering what 
Buterbaugh had said. Those men werent cowards, he 
said; they were just demoralized from losing con- 
fidence. And that was the way it was with me, exactly. 



As I got nearer the place where the roads came to- 
gether to lead down to the Landing I saw more and 
more men making for the rear. We had all come up 
this way, debarking from the transports, and we re- 
membered that high bluff (some I suppose had been 
remembering it ever since the first shots fired that 
morning, the way it reared up a hundred feet tall 
between the river and the fighting) and when the 
going got too rough, that was the one safe place that 
stood out in our minds. Some had been hurt, carrying 
an arm buttoned into the front of their jackets or 
crippling along with a musket for a crutch or wearing 
a shirtsleeve for a bandage like a turban round their 
heads. Every now and again there would be a well 
man helping a hurt one, but generally they walked 
alone, not looking at the others. I got a notion they 
were not only trying to get away from the fighting, 
they were trying to walk right out of the human race. 

Roads led from all corners of the battlefield up to 
a place on top of the bluff where they came together 
to form one road giving down to the Landing. We 
could see the water from there, steamboats at the 
wharf and two gunboats anchored upstream with 
cannons run out and sailors loafing on deck to watch 
the fun. The way we came together at the top of the 
bluff, going downhill on that one road, we were like 
grains of sand passing through a funnel. But that was 



only for a time. Once we were past this place, the 
spout of the funnel, we fanned out again, spreading 
up and down the riverbank, and sat there watching the 

Of course I had been expecting I would find a lot of 
men back here after all, I had been watching them 
make for the rear all day, one after another, fast as 
they became scared or discouraged at the way the 
fight was going. But I wasnt prepared for what I 
saw. Upstream and down, far as I could see, they 
crowded the space between the bluff and the bank, 
sitting on the sand and looking at the river, watching 
sunlight flash on the choppy waves and wishing like 
Jesus they could walk on water. A few hadnt stopped 
with just wishing: they were out in the river, hanging 
onto logs and bundles of driftwood, paddling across 
to the opposite bank. 

It was lower over there. I could see a great mass of 
men drawn up in columns, waiting while some of 
their number engineers, I suppose cut a road down 
the low overhang so they could board the steamers. 
The Michigander said they were BuelTs army, come 
from Columbia to save the day. He snorted when he 
said it, though, and he screwed up his eyes. "Save the 
day hell," he said. "Wait till they get up there. Then 
we'll see what they save. Theyll be right back here 



with the rest of us. Mind what \ say. Theyll save 
their hides; thats all theyll save. n 

By the time the first boatload of them got across, 
it was past sundown. The sound of firing had drawn 
in until it seemed directly above us, on the bluff. 
Soon now the rebels might be looking over the rim 
and shooting down like into a flock of sheep. Through 
the fading light I watched as Buell's men came off the 
steamboats and onto the wharf, picking their way 
among the rows of wounded laid there to be taken 
across to safety when the chance came. 

They had a hard time of it, those wounded. Re- 
treaters had stepped on them with muddy shoes to 
reach the end of the wharf, in hopes that a boat 
might come to take the casualties across and they 
could crawl aboard among them. That wasnt all, 
either. Cables had been raked over them by the 
sailors, scraping some of them off into the river and 
fouling the rest with slime from the river bottom. 
You couldnt tell the dead ones from the living 
theyd turned black with mud from the boots and 
cables and with blood from their reopened wounds. 
It made me sick at the stomach just looking at them. 

Retreaters were packed so close where the steam- 
boats put in, Buell's men had to open a path with 
their bayonets. They cussed the men on the bank, 
calling them scoundrels and cowards while they 
shoved them aside with their rifles. 



"Get out the way/' they said, shoving* "We'll 
your damned battle for you." 

But the men under the bluff jeered right back. 
"YouH catch it," they hollered, all of them yelling at 
once. "Youll see! TheyU cut you to ribbons up 

Mostly we had been let alone. Not even the high- 
rank officers on Grant's staff, moving along the bluff 
road to and from Army headquarters on a steamboat, 
made any try at getting us back into the fight. They 
would just look at us and go on. I suppose they knew 
that even if they managed to get us back up the bluff 
and into the wood again, we would melt away as 
soon as they turned their heads. Or maybe they 
figured being scared was catching and they didnt want 
us up there spreading it amongst the men who had 

But there was one fellow who didnt feel that way 
about it. He was a chaplain, tall and raw-boned, and 
he ranted at us in a hard New England voice. Youd 
have thought he was back in the pulpit, the way he 
ranted. He stood in the middle of the road, halfway 
up the bluff, waving his arms at a group of men who 
sat on the sand and watched him with leers on their 
faces. Then the head of a column of BuelTs men off 
the steamboat came up to where he was. 

"Rally for God and country!" he was saying. "Oh 
rally round the flag!" 



He was square in the middle of the road, blocking 
it and calling the skulkers to rally oh rally, when the 
colonel heading the column came up behind him. 

"Shut up, you goddam old fool" the colonel said. 
"Get out the way!" 

And the column brushed him aside and went up 
the bluff while the group of skulkers sat there laugh- 
ing at the parson and calling him to rally oh rally, 
rally. They whistled and hooted at him till he stomped 
off fuming mad and didnt come back. 

Night was closing in, first a blue dusk darkening, 
then just blackness, the big stretch of sky across the 
river sprinkled with stars winking at us through rifts 
in the smoke blown back from the battlefield. The 
firing had died to occasional sputters, sounding dull in 
the darkness, but every ten or fifteen minutes the gun- 
boats would throw two shells up over the bluff. They 
went past with a noise like freight cars in the night, 
their fuzes drawing long curved lines across the sky. 
The explosions sounded faint and far in the woods 
above, the way it is back home when a farmer two 
fields off is blowing stumps. 

Torches were burning down by the Landing where 
BuelTs men were still unloading. They came up the 
bluff in a steady column, cheering with hoarse voices 
when they reached the top. Nobody hooted at them 
now. We just sat there watching them. Their faces 



looked strange in the torchlight, eyes glinting out of 
hollow sockets, teeth flashing white against mouths 
like deep black holes when they cheered. From sun- 
down until the stars burned clear with no smoke to 
fog them, Bueli's men went on unloading and march- 
ing up that steep road to the woods above. When they 
reached the overlook, they would put their caps on 
the tips of their bayonets and raise them, cheering. 
Out over the water we heard the voices of the sailors 
as they took the steamboats across again, going back 
for more. 

Then the stars went out and the sky across the river 
was only blackness. There began to be a sound of 
sighing in the air the wind was rising. Then the rain 
came. First it was only a patter, little gusts of it as if 
somebody up on the bluff was dropping handfuls of 
birdshot down on us. Then the wind died; the rain 
turned to a steady, fine drizzle almost like mist. You 
could see it against the torches, falling slantwise on 
the men marching up the slope and the retreaters 
huddled on the sand with their faces to the bluff and 
their backs to the rain. 

Sitting there getting wetter and wetter I began to 
think about the long day that was past. I saw it from 
then to now; I went back over it, beginning with 
three oclock in the morning when I lay warm in my 
blankets and heard the infantry going out, then back 


to sleep again and the long roll sounding and we stood 
to the guns, anxious for the johnnies to come because 
we stiU didnt know what it was going to be like. I 
saw Captain Munch getting bowled over by a cannon- 
ball. I looked at myself in my mind, watching myself 
as if I was another person God, maybe looking 
down and seeing Otto Flickner fighting the rebels on 
SMloh battlefield. 

He did all right, considering. He was scared from 
time to time, no different from the others, but he did 
all right until word came down to retreat from the 
sunken road. That broke it. That was when the spark 
went out of him. I heard Lieutenant Pfaender calling 
Flickner! Flickner! and saw myself going back 
through the blackjack scrubs without even looking 
round. I saw again the things Fd seen at the Landing, 
the hangdog faces of the skulkers turning to jeer, the 
wounded laid out in rows on the wharf all bloody, 
muddy from being tramped on; BuelFs army coming 
off the steamboats, calling us cowards to our faces 
and us taking it; and finally I saw myself the way I 
was now, sitting in the rain and telling myself that 
Buterbaugh was wrong. I wasnt demoralized back 
there at the sunken road: I hadnt even lost confidence. 
I was just plain scared, as scared as a man can be, and 
that was why I walked away from the fight. 

Just thinking it, I was panting like the dog. And 



soon as I thought it You were just plain scared, I 
thought I wished I had let it alone. Because being 
demoralized or losing confidence was aH right. Like 
Buterbaugh said, it was a thing that closed in on you 
from outside, a thing you couldnt help. But being 
scared was different. It was inside you, just you your- 
self, and that was a horse of a different color. That 
meant I would have to do something about it, or live 
with it for the balance of my life. So I went up the 

I didnt say anything to the others, and only the 
Michigander looked up as I walked away. I thought 
maybe it would be a good idea to take a poke at him 
before I left, but what was the use after all? Bango 
was sleeping anyhow he hadnt moved. The rain was 
coming down harder now; when I cleared the top of 
the bluff it came against me in sheets, driven by the 
wind, and there was a steady moaning sound in the 
limbs of the trees. Then I saw campfires. They fol- 
lowed a ridge and overlooked a gully, drawing a wide 
low half-mile semicircle against the night. Siege guns, 
big ones long and black against the firelight, were 
ranged along that ridge with their muzzles reaching 
out toward the rebel lines. Later I heard that a colonel 
by the name of Webster he was on Grant's staff 
had placed them there, and with the help of some of 
the light artillery and rallied infantry, they formed 



the line that broke the final charge that evening. But 
I clidnt know this now; I just saw the siege guns 
against the campfires strung out along the ridge. 

Then I passed a log house with lanterns burning 
and wounded men lying half-naked on sawhorse 
tables, being held down by attendants while the 
surgeons worked on them. The surgeons wore their 
sleeves rolled up, arms bloody past the elbows; from 
rime to time one would stop and take a pull at a bottle* 
The wounded screamed like women, high and 
trembly, and the attendants had to hold them tight to 
keep them from bucking off the tables. 

I went past in a hurry, picking my way among 
those laid out to wait their turn in the house. It was 
pitch black dark and the rain was coming down 
harder, blowing up for a storm. Everywhere I went 
there were men on the ground, singly or in groups, 
and most of them sleeping. But no matter who I 
asked, not a one of them could tell me how to find 
my outfit. 

"Where will I find the ist Minnesota Battery?" 

Ci Never heard of them." That was always the 

Once I saw a man huddled in a poncho, leaning 
back against the trunk of a big oak. But when I went 
over to ask him, I saw his face and backed away. He 
could have told me, maybe, but I didnt ask him. It 



was General Grant. He had that same worried look 
on his face, only more so. Earlier he'd tried to get 
some sleep in the log house where I saw the surgeons, 
but the screams of the wounded and the singing of 
the bone-saws drove him out into the rain. Remember- 
ing all I saw when I went past surgeons with their 
sleeves rolled high and bloody arms and legs thrown 
in a pile outside an open window I couldnt say I 
blamed him. 

It went on that way: "Never heard of them/* until 
finally I gave up trying to locate the battery. I 
thought Fd better find the division first; then maybe 
I could find the battery. But that was no better, for 
no one could tell me about the division either, until 
at last I came on a fellow leaning back in a fence 
comer with a blanket pulled over his head like a 
cowl on a monk. 

"The Sixth?" he said, holding the edges of the 
blanket up close beneath his chin. His voice shook 
because his fist was against his windpipe. "Man, thats 
Prentiss* division. They surrendered before sundown, 
the whole kit and kiboodle. By now youll find them 
marching down the Corinth road, under a rebel 

So that was that. There was no use beating around 
the wet woods any longer, looking for an outfit ten 
miles away on the opposite side of the lines by now. 


It sort of took the wind out of me, knowing that 
now 1 had no chance to get back to the ones Fd 
walked away from, no chance to make it up to them 
the way Fd planned. Then for a minute 1 had a crazy 
notion to go back to the big oak near the log house 
and report to Grant: "General, here's an unattached 
cannoneer, got his nerve back at last and wants a 
share in the fighting tomorrow morning." 

It was just a notion; of course Fd never do a thing 
like that. But then I remembered the siege guns, the 
ones strung out along the ridge where the campfires 
were. Fd never served any piece larger than a twelve- 
pounder, but I thought I might be of some use swab- 
bing the bore or carrying ammunition or something 
this six-foot-five of mine always came in handy when 
heavy work was called for. So I went back the way 
I came, past the sleeping men and the log hospital 
where they were still hard at work (the amputation 
pile reached the window ledge now, beginning to 
spread out into the yard) and up to where the line 
of campfires began on the ridge. That was when I 
saw for the first time that all the cannons werent big 
ones. There were some light pieces mixed in, looking 
like toys alongside the siege guns. 

I was making my way up to one of the light pieces, 
thinking maybe I could have my old job again 
Number Four, back on the handspike when I 



tripped over someone rolled in Ms blanket. My 
must have hit him in the ribs, for he gave a grunt and 
a groan and raised himself on one elbow. Then fire- 
light flickered on his face, showing Ms mouth aU set 
to start cussing, and I could hardly believe my eyes. 
It was Lieutenant Pf aender. 

I said, "Scuse me, lieutenant." 

"Whynt you go where youre looking?" he mum- 
bled, and rolled back over and went to sleep again. 
He was so tired he hadnt even recognized me, or eke 
he'd forgot Fd ever been gone. 

What had happened, they had got away from the 
sunken road just before the surrender, bringing off 
two guns, and when Lieutenant Pfaender reported to 
Colonel Webster back at the overlook, the colonel 
put what was left of the battery in line with the siege 
guns. Theyd had a share in breaking the final charge 
that came just before dark. I didnt know that now, 
though, and I was certainly surprised to find them 
here after being told they were surrendered. 

I went on to the gun. The crew members, those 
that were left, together with some of the men from 
guns that had been lost, were sleeping on both sides 
of the trail. Sergeant Buterbaugh sat with Ms back 
against a caisson wheel, smoking his pipe upside-down 
because of the rain. Corporal Keller was asleep beside 
Mm; he had a bandage round his head. The sergeant 



watched me come up, then took the pipe out of his 

"What happened to you?" 

a l was scared/' I said; "I ran. You want to make 
something of it?" That made me mad, having him ask 
a thing Eke that when he already knew the answer. 

He put the pipe back in his mouth, puffing. "Go 
on, bed down/ 5 he said. "WeVe got a rough day 
coming up tomorrow." 


5 Sergeant Jefferson Polly 
Scout, Forrest's Cavalry 

Near midnight the storm broke over us. It had been 
raining since sundown, a steady drizzle with occasional 
gusts of wind to drive it, but now there was thunder, 
rolling and rumbling like an artillery fight, and great 
yellow flashes of lightning brighter than noonday. 
The wind rose, howling in the underbrush and whip- 
ping against our faces, even through the upturned 
collars of our captured overcoats, and by the flashes 
of lightning we saw the trees bent forward like 
keening women and trembling along their boughs. 
We made our way down a ravine, one of those deep 
gullies which were supposed to drain the tableland 
into the Tennessee but which were thigh-deep with 
backwater now, all of them, because of the rising 

There were Indian mounds in the woods beyond 
the rim of the gully. Earlier in the day, soon after the 



surrender of Prentiss, I stood on the tallest of these, 
right at the bluff overlooking the Landing, and 
watched troops come ashore off the steamboats. When 
Yd been there long enough to make certain they were 
reinforcements from BueE's army finally marching in 
from Columbia, I went back the way I had come, 
located the colonel, and reported what Fd seen. He 
never had any reason to doubt anything Fd told him 
so far, but this was too big to pass on as hearsay, and 
as usual he wanted to see for himself. 

He chose six troopers, dressed us all eight (including 
himself) in the blue Federal overcoats we had picked 
up in the captured camp that afternoon on the chance 
they might come in handy, and told me to strike out, 
guiding the way, and he would have a look-see. I 
was worried for fear I would lose the path because 
things were so different with the storm brewing, but 
I picked my way from stone to tree as I recognized 
them by lightning flashes, and at last came to the base 
of the mound. That was a relief, as you would know 
if youd ever seen Forrest with his dander up. There 
were about a dozen of these mounds in this corner of 
the tableland, put up by Indians in the olden days 
before the white men I suppose for tribal purposes: 
burial, maybe. They varied in size from just little 
dirt-packs six or eight feet high, to real hills maybe 



thirty feet up In the air. Mine was the largest and 
not really hard to find; I had no real cause for all that 
worry. It stood out directly above the lower end of 
the bluff, overlooking the Landing. 

Forrest told the others to stand guard at the base, 
and he and I began to climb the steep western face 
of the mound. This was easier said than done, for the 
rain had made it slippery. We had to hold onto each 
other and onto bushes and small trees, pulling our- 
selves up hand over hand, slipping and sliding in the 
mud and catching our spurs against creepers and 
blackberry bushes. 

Just before we reached the top there was an ex- 
plosion on the other side and a great flash of red out- 
lining the mound. At first I thought one of the 
steamboats had blown her boiler, but then there was 
a sound of wind rushing whoosh! past our ears, and 
a long trail of sparks against the night. Almost im- 
mediately there came a second explosion, the same 
flash of red followed by another rush of wind: 
whoosh! and the paling arc of the fuze along the sky. 
Forrest had his face turned toward me when the 
second one went off. His chin beard was black against 
his face. 

"Its the gunboats," I said. "We'll see them 

From the eastern slope we saw them anchored not 


far from bank, near where a branch ran out of the 
gully and into the river. There were two of them 
and we were looking almost straight down onto their 
decks. The gunners had rolled back the big naval 
cannons; now they were busy swabbing them, get- 
ting ready for the next shots ten minutes later. Their 
shells had been falling out on the battlefield, among 
the wounded and sleeping Federals and Confederates, 
coming down on schedule ever since dusk-dark, two 
every fifteen minutes. They were so big and they 
made such a God-awful racket going off, the men 
called them lampposts and wash pots. 

Not more than half a mile downstream and about 
a hundred feet below, we could see BuelFs soldiers 
coming ashore. They came off the steamboats onto a 
wharf where torches were burning. All up and down 
the bank, in both directions from the Landing, the 
stretch of ground between the bluff and the river was 
crowded with men. Most of them were in shadow, 
dark splotches against the pale yellow sand, but when 
the lightning flashed sometimes it lasted through 
time to count to five we could see their faces, shrunk 
to the size of your palm across that distance and pale 
as magnolia petals. They were the ones who had left 
the fight, lost heart, thrown in their cards and ske- 
daddled as soon as the going got rough. Part of my 
training was learning to look at bodies of troops and 



tell how many men were among them. I was never 
one to throw figures around carelessly anyhow. But 
I will say this, here and now: There were at least six 
thousand Yankee soldiers skulking under that bluff* 

Not all of them were sitting on the bank. Some 
were out on the wharf, trying to squeeze past the 
incoming men to find a place on the steamboats. 
Others were waist-deep in the water, trying to climb 
the sides of the boats, but there were sailors stationed 
along the gangways to keep them off by banging 
their fingers and heads with marlin spikes and belay- 
ing pins. We could hear the sailors cussing them, and 
whenever there was a lull in the roar that came up 
from the riverbank, we heard the men in the water 
offering money and gratitude if theyd let them 
aboard. It was the kind of thing that would make a 
man ashamed to be part of their army. If it hadnt 
been for having seen blue-bellies as brave as any men 
I ever knew out on the battlefield that afternoon in 
the Hornets Nest, along that sunken road Fd have 
said the war couldnt last another week, not with men 
like those wearing the uniform. I felt almost ashamed 
for them, because after all it was once our country 

Boats moved back and forth across the river, their 
wheels beating a white, foamy wake in the black water 
and drops shining like diamonds as they dripped from 



the paddles in the torchlight beside the wharf. Men 
came off the boats six deep, shouldering their way 
through the skulkers and marching up the bluff road 
to the tableland above, joining the line of battle 
where the fighting stopped at dark. 

"There they are," I said: "BuelPs men come on 
from Columbia. More than we've got left after the 
all-day fight, and ready to hit us first thing in the 

We watched them come off, regiment after regi- 
ment, as fast as the boats could make it down to 
Savannah for a fresh load. Forrest didnt say anything. 
Crouched in the mud, looking down on them, he 
didnt need to say anything for me to know what he 
was thinking, because having been with him for nine 
months now I could the same as hear him thinking 
out loud. He knew something had to be done before 
daylight. We had to hit them in a night attack, by 
coming up the way Fd brought him, or get off that 
tableland before they charged us in the morning. 

When Beauregard called off the fight at sundown 
he had every reason to think the next day would be 
spent picking up the spoils of battle. He had Grant's 
army pushed back within shooting distance of the 
river and he had received a dispatch telling him that 
BuelFs army had reversed its route of march and was 
moving toward Decatur. But now Forrest had seen 


with his own eyes how wrong the dispatch was. For 
a quarter of an hour we watched the reinforcements 
coming ashore, the thick blue columns marching up 
the bluff. Then the gunboats fired again, both shells 
screaming past with their breath in our hair. Forrest 
got up, still without saying anything, and went back 
down the mound. 

The six troopers were there (they gave me a start 
for a moment, wearing those dark overcoats, until I 
remembered I was wearing one too) but he didnt 
even stop to tell them what he'd seen. I knew where 
he was headed. The nearest troops were Chalmers' 
brigade, camped on the ground where Prentiss had 
surrendered before sundown. Forrest was going to 
Chalmers, tell him what he'd seen, and persuade him to 
use his brigade in a night attack on the Landing or 
at least bring them down the ravine to a position from 
which they could fire into the stragglers and the rein- 
forcements corning in. Or if it was too late for that 
which it well might be he was going to Beauregard, 
wherever he was, and tell him it was a question of 
clear out or be whipped. 

When the battle opened Sunday morning, we were 
posted with the ist Tennessee Infantry on the south 
side of Lick Creek, guarding the fords. From sunup 
until almost noon we stayed there, hearing the guns 
roaring and the men cheering as they charged through 



camp after camp. About midmorning the Infantry 
crossed over, marching toward the firing, but we 
stayed there under orders, patrolling the creek with 
no sign of a bluecoat in sight and the battle racket 
getting fainter. Finally the colonel had enough of 
that. So he assembled the regiment and gave us a 
speech. (Forrest enjoyed putting on a little show 
every now and again, conditions permitting.) He 
stood in the stirrups and addressed us. 

"Boys, you hear that musketry and that artillery?" 

"Yak! Yair!" It came in a roar. 

"Do you know what it means?" But he wasnt ask- 
ing; he was telling us. "It means our friends are fall- 
ing by hundreds at the hands of the enemy. And here 
we are, guarding a damned crick! We didnt enter the 
service for such work while we're needed elsewhere. 
Lets go help them! What do you say?" 

It came in a roar: "Yair! Yair!" 

So he led the way across the creek and we followed, 
splashing. There was a litter of canteens and haver- 
sacks and discarded rifles this ground had already 
been taken. The wounded looked up with fever-hot 
eyes, Union and Confederate, from back in the bushes 
where they had crawled to be out of the way. After 
we'd ridden about a mile, looking for a place where 
we could do some good, Forrest put us in line on a 
road in rear of Cheatham's division, which had just 


been thrown back from an attack. The infantry lay 
on the grass, blown and surly because their charge 
had failed. 

While we were lined up there, wailing to support 
the infantry when they went forward again, the 
artillery opened on us. This was not as bad as you 
might think, for at that range, by careful watching, 
we could see the balls coming and clear a path for 
them. It was no fun, however. When they had given 
us a couple of salvos and were coming in on the 
range, Forrest rode over to General Cheatham, who 
was sitting his horse with his staff about him. It had 
begun to get hot, the sun high and bright as ham- 
mered gold. Forrest was in his shirtsleeves, his coat 
folded across the pommel of his saddle. He saluted 
and Cheatham returned it. 

"General, I cant let my men stay here under this 
fire. I must either move forward or fall back." 

Cheatham looked at him we were no part of his 
command and I suppose he figured he had enough to 
look after already. "I cannot give you the order," he 
said. "If you make the charge it will be under your 
own orders." 

"Then I'll do it," Forrest said. Til charge under 
my own orders." 

And with that he came jingling back to where we 
were dodging cannonballs, wheeling our horses with 



the Intent precision of men dancing a mounted 
minuet. The colonel's color had risen, the way it 
always did in a fight. His eyes had that battle-glint In 
them already. 

Beyond the road where the infantry had formed 
there was a field skirted with timber along its flanks 
and rear blackjack mostly, thick with underbrush 
and in the opposite far comer there was a peach 
orchard in full bloom, the blossoms like pink icing 
on a cake. Here were two Federal batteries and a 
heavy line of troops lying beneath the peach trees, 
firing. Smoke lazed and swirled up through the bright 
pink blossoms. Another battery was in position to the 
left of the orchard, across the field and at the edge 
of the timber. When they saw we were forming for 
attack, the gunners changed direction and began to 
range in on us. 

Before they found the range we rode forward, 
advancing four deep on a wide front. When the 
battery pulled its shots in, sending them close again, 
Forrest signaled the bugler and we changed front, 
moving by the left flank into fours. The gunners 
shifted their pieces. But by the time they had us lined 
up (they were green) the bugle blared again and we 
came back on a regimental front. The horses were 
beginning to snort now, hoofs drumming on the turf. 
It was pretty, I tell you, and we were feeling mighty 


proud of ourselves. But next time they were too 
quick for us. As we came back into fours a ball took 
out the file behind me, killing two troopers and all 
four of the horses. We heard their bones crunch 
blood spattered fifteen or twenty yards in both direc- 
tions. By this time we had zigzagged to within rushing 
distance of the battery. When we came about by the 
right flank, back on a wide front once more, the 
bugle sounded the charge. We went forward at a 
gallop, sabers out. 

Forrest was in front. He stood in the stirrups, 
taller than life in his shirtsleeves, swinging that long 
razor-sharp saber anyone within reach got cut; blue 
or gray, it didnt matter and bellering "Charge! 
Charge!" in a voice that rang like brass. 

The guns gave us a volley of grape, but when we 
came through the smoke I saw cannoneers breaking 
for the blackjack thickets where it was too dense for 
us to follow on horses. Then I saw for the first time 
that the infantry had come on behind. Cheatham's 
men whooped and hollered round the guns. 

We drew back and formed our ranks again. The 
colonel was beginning to fret because he couldnt find 
anyone with authority to tell him where he was 
wanted. I suppose, too, he was feeling a bit guilty 
about leaving the Lick Creek fords unguarded. He 
told Lieutenant Strange, the adjutant, to report to 



General Beauregard for orders. Strange was a top- 
notch soldier when It came to paper work (he was 
regimental sergeant major until the reorganization 
two weeks before) but Forrest wasnt so sure how 
well he would do when, it came to finding his way 
around on the battlefield, so he told me to go along 
with him. 

We rode toward the left, following what had been 
the line of battle an hour or two before. There was 
worse confusion on this part of the field than any 
we had seen since we crossed the creek. The wounded 
were thicker and the captured camps were crowded 
with men who had stopped to plunder. Passing a 
Yankee general's tent I saw four Confederate privates 
sitting in a ring around a keg of whiskey. They were 
drunk already, passing a gourd from hand to hand 
and wiping their mouths with their cuffs. Off to one 
side, demonstrating the privilege of rank, a big sandy- 
haired corporal sat with a demijohn all to himself. At 
another place, a little farther along, the woods had 
caught fire. Most of the wounded had crawled clear, 
or had been dragged out by friends, but I heard 
others squalling beyond the flames. 

No one knew where Beauregard's headquarters 
was, until we lucked up on Colonel Jordan, his chief 
of staff, who told us we would find the general at 
Shiloh Meeting House, a log cabin over toward the 



left, on the Corinth road. We went the way he said 
and there it was. I waited at the road-fork with the 
horses while Strange went in to report. 

While I was standing there, holding the reins of 
both horses, a tow-headed boy wearing a homespun 
shirt under his jacket came up to me. He was about 
seventeen, just beginning to raise some fuzz on his 
cheeks. He carried his left arm across his stomach, 
holding it by the wrist with the other hand. The 
sleeve of the hurt arm was caked with blood from 
just below the shoulder all the way down to the cuff. 

"Whar's a doctor?" he said, his voice trembling. 

I told him I didnt know but there should be some of 
them over toward the right, where the sound of the 
fighting had swelled up again, and he went on. He 
was sad to see: had a dazed look around the eyes, as 
if he'd seen things no boy ought to see, and he 
wobbled as he walked. I thought to myself: Boy, 
you better lie down while you can. 

Finally Strange came out of the meeting house and 
we turned back the way we had come. That seemed 
the sensible thing to do, though Lord knows there 
was no telling where the regiment was by now. 
They might be almost anywhere on the whole wide 
battlefield, with Forrest leading them. 

Strange said he hadnt talked to old Bory himself 
but one of the aides had told him there was nothing 



unusual about not knowing where to go for orders. 
The battle was being fought that way, he said It 
was just a matter of helping whoever needed help 
most at the time. That seemed to me to be a mighty 
loose-jointed way to fight a war. 

When we got past the place where we left Forrest 
the sun was near the landline. There was a great 
yelling in the woods beyond, and just as we rode up 
we met what I thought was the whole Yank army 
coming toward us. Then I saw they were marching 
without rifles or colors and they were under guard. 
It was what was left of Prentiss' division, surrendered 
when the other Union outfits fell back, leaving them 
stranded, and our regiment and most of Chalmers' 
brigade got between them and the river. They looked 
glum as glum but they had no cause for shame. They 
were the fightingest men in the whole blue-belly 
army, bar none, and if they hadnt held that sunken 
road in the Hornets Nest for six hours, it would 
have been all up with Grant before sundown. 

Beyond the woods, in the little clearing where 
Prentiss had surrendered, our troopers and the men 
of Chalmers' Mississippi brigade were trying to out- 
yell each other. Their lips were black from the 
cartridge bite and their voices came shrill across the 
field while the sun went down on the other side of 
the battleground, big and red through the trees. The 


colonel was still In Ms shirtsleeves, sitting with one leg 
across the pommel, smiling and watching the fen. 
When Strange told him what Beauregard's aide had 
said, I suppose he was easier in his mind' knowing 
he'd done right but then again maybe I'm wrong; 
maybe it hadnt bothered him at all Forrest was 
never one to let orders keep him from doing what he 
knew was best. 

That was when I left to go out and do some scout- 
ing on my own. The regiment went on to support 
Chalmers and Jackson in their attacks against the 
siege guns drawn in a half -circle along the ridge near 
the bluff. They charged those guns, up the ridge, 
until Beauregard sent word to call it a day. But I 
had no part in that. Following the ravine down toward 
the river in the gathering dusk, I came upon the Indian 
mound, climbed it, and lay there for nearly an hour, 
counting troops and hearing them identify themselves 
as they came ashore. 

They were really obliging about that. Every now 
and then, when the steamboat neared bank, some 
rambunctious Fed would lean over the rail and yell 
at the skulkers: "Never mind, boys. Here's the 6th 
Indiana, come to win your damned battle for you!" 
It was BuelFs Army of the Ohio no doubt about 
that: I identified them regiment after regiment coming 
ashore. Some of the outfits were ones we'd badgered 



during our operation along the Green River, back 
in January. 

By the time I knew all I needed, it was full dark 
and had begun to rain, first a fine mist like spray, 
then a slow steady drizzle coming down through the 
branches with a quiet murmuring sound against the 
blackberry bushes. I went back. It was no easy job 
in the dark. Being in a hurry, I stumbled and slipped 
in the mud I must have fallen at least a dozen times, 
getting disoriented every time. And to cap the climax, 
as if I wasnt mad enough akeady, when I got back 
I couldnt locate the coloneL 

I found the camp, all right: just blundered into 
it. But Forrest was out in the field somewhere, they 
told me, looking for Willy, his fifteen-year-old son, 
who had struck out with two other boys that after- 
noon on a little operation of their own. Long past 
dark, when they still had not come back, the colonel 
went out looking for them. Mrs Forrest (she was 
the only person the colonel was really afraid of) had 
specially charged him to look out for Willy from the 
day she let Forrest take him with him to enlist. 

That was in Memphis, June of *6i, a month before 
his fortieth birthday. He went down to the recruiting 
office and signed up as a private in a horse company, 
taking his youngest brother and his son. He had voted 
against secession but when Tennessee left the Union 



he left with her. By the time of Shlloh he had already 
made a name for himself: first by bringing his com- 
mand out of Donelson after the generals decided to 
surrender, then by taking charge at Nashville and 
saving the government stores during the hubbub that 
followed General Johnston's retreat but most of 
the talk was wild. Because he didnt speak the way 
tEey did in their parlors, or fight the way it showed 
in their manuals, they said he was an illiterate cracker 
who came barefoot out of the hills in overalls and 
right away began to show his genius. They meant 
it well; it made good listening. But it was just not 

Bedford Forrest was bora in Middle Tennessee, 
son of a blacksmith and a pioneer woman named Beck. 
When he was sixteen his father died and left him head 
of a family of nine in the backwoods section of 
North Mississippi where they had moved three years 
before. He grew up there, working for an uncle in a 
livery stable. By the time he was twenty-four he was 
a partner and had met the girl he intended to marry. 
Her guardian was a Presbyterian minister, and when 
Forrest went to ask for her hand the old man turned 
him down: 

"Why, Bedford, I couldnt consent. You cuss and 
gamble, and Mary Ann is a Christian girl." 

"I know it," Forrest said. "Thats why I want her." 



And he got her, too. The old man officiated at 
the wedding. 

He got most things he went after. Within six years 
he had outgrown the Mississippi hamlet and moved 
to Memphis, expanding his livestock trade to Include 
real estate and slaves. Ten years later, when the war 
began, he was worth beyond a million dollars and 
owned five thousand acres of plantation land down in 
the Delta. What the citizens of Memphis thought 
of Mm is shown by the fact that they elected him to 
the Board of Aldermen three times straight running. 
So when people say Forrest came Into the war bare- 
foot and in overalls, they arent telling the truth; 
theyre spreading the legend. 

Less than a month after he enlisted he was called 
back to Memphis by Governor Harris and given 
authority to recruit a cavalry battalion of his own. 
That was the real beginning of his military career, 
and that was the first time I saw him. 

I was on my way to Richmond, just passing through 
from Galveston, when I saw the notice in the Appeal: 

1 desire to enlist five hundred able-bodied men, 
mounted and equipped with such arms as they can 
procure (shot-guns and pistols preferable) suitable 
to the service. Those who cannot entirely equip 
themselves will be furnished arms by the State. 



And I thought: Weil, as -well here as there. It had 
the sound of a man I could work for. I had reached 
that stage In my life where it didnt matter which 
way the cat jumped, and besides, I was tired of riding 
the train. It was mid-July of the hottest summer I 
ever knew. Cigar smoke writhed in long gray tendrils 
about the hotel room; the air was like a breath 
against my face. Sitting there beside the high window 
with the newspaper folded in my lap, I knew I had 
ended a six-year chase after nothing. 

My father was a Baptist preacher in Houston. He'd 
come to Texas from Georgia (on the call of the Lord, 
he said) and when he had founded his church and 
was a pillar of society, he channeled all the drive 
that had brought him West into making me all he'd 
hoped to be. I never felt he was doing It for me, 
though: I always felt he was doing it for himself. 
He thought he was doing fine, too, until the day he 
got the letter from the head of the divinity school in 
Baltimore telling him I'd been dismissed for immo- 
rality, and all his dreams went bang. I was never cut 
out to be a preacher anyhow. When the proctor came 
into the room that Saturday night and stood there 
with his eyes bugged out, looking at the whiskey 
bottles and the girl my roommate and I had picked 
up on the waterfront, I was almost glad. It meant 


an end to trying to be something I was never meant 
to be. I packed and left, 

AH I knew about making my way in the world 
was what I'd learned from a thousand divinity tracts 
and a half-hour lecture my father once gave me on 
the benefits of purity. I sold my clothes and shipped 
as a seaman on a British bark bound round the Cape 
with a cargo of hemp for the California coast. I was 
nineteen at the rime and I had never hit a lick of 
work in my life. 

I jumped ship in Los Angeles, got a berth as 
driver with a wagon train heading east for Missouri, 
and left them in Kansas to join another one rolling 
west. It was like that for six years I tried everything 
I could imagine. I was faro dealer in a Monterey 
gambling hell, wore a tall silk hat and a claw-hammer 
coat with a derringer up one sleeve; but I couldnt 
make the cards behave, so they dealt me out. In 
Utah I sold buffalo meat to Mormons. I panned for 
gold on the Sacramento River and was a harvest 
hand in Minnesota. I worked as a bouncer in a San 
Francisco saloon but got bounced so often myself 
they let me go. I was a mule skinner with a pack train 
out of Denver and nearly died of thirst after running 
into trouble with Apaches in the Colorado Desert. 
Six years was enough: I shipped round the Cape again, 
this time on a Massachusetts schooner, and docked 



at Galveston in late June of VSi. Fd to go 

up to Houston then, to see If my father alive; but 
when I heard there was a war on, I put it out of my 
mind completely, the way you close a book. 

For some men war meant widows* 
orphans' howls. For me it meant another delay before 
rime to go to my father and admit Fd done as poor a 
job of making a bad man as I had of making a good 
one. I decided to go to Richmond to see the lay of 
the land, then to Wilmington or maybe Charleston 
to join the Confederate navy. I preferred fighting on 
water; it seemed cleaner. But when I stopped over- 
night in Memphis, between trains, and saw the notice 
in the paper, I changed my mind and settled for the 
cavalry under Forrest. 

The recruiting office was in the Gayoso House 
the colonel's brother Jeffrey swore me in. While I 
was waiting for there to be enough of us to go in a 
group to our quarters upstairs, Forrest entered from 
Main Street. He was tall, over six feet, narrow in the 
hips and broad-shouldered, with the flat legs of a 
natural horseman. His hair was iron gray, worn long 
and brushed back on both sides of a rounded widow's 
peak above a high forehead. Between a wide mus- 
tache and a black chin-beard his lips were full but 
firm. His nose was straight, nostrils flared, and his 
eyes were gray-blue. They looked directly at you 



when he spoke (I never saw such eyes before or since) 
and his voice was low, though later I was to hear 
it rise to a brassy clangor that sounded from end to 
end of the line, above the sound of guns and hoofs. 

From that first instant when I saw him walk into 
the lobby of the Gayoso, I knew I was looking at 
the most man in the world. Afterwards in Kentucky 
rounding up horses and men and equipment, then 
back in camp at the Memphis Fair Grounds, then 
fighting gunboats on the Cumberland when no one 
believed they could be fought, then in the attack 
at Sacramento when I first saw him stand in the 
stirrups and beller "Charge!" and then out of the 
wreck of Donelson across freezing creeks and back- 
water saddle-skirt deep I followed him and watched 
him grow to be what he had become by the time of 
ShUoh: the first cavalryman of his time, one of the 
great ones of all time, though no one realized it that 
soon except men who had fought under him. 

I was a scout by then, operating out beyond the 
rim of the army and dropping back from time to 
time to report. I liked that work. Sometimes it took 
me far from headquarters, beyond the Union lines. 
Sometimes it was simpler. At Shiloh it was much 
simpler. I went to the Indian mound, saw BuelTs 
men coming ashore, and came back to tell Forrest 



what I'd seen. The only trouble was I couldnt 
find him. 

There was no use floundering around on the battle- 
field looking for him while he was looking for Willy, 
so I waited at headquarters. It was a long wait, sitting 
there while rain drummed on the captured tent fly. 
Then, about eleven oclock not long before the 
weather broke in earnest the colonel and his son 
arrived from opposite directions. Willy was his 
special concern, not only because he was likely to 
get his head blown off poking it into every corner 
of the fighting, but also because the boy had begun 
to pick up soldier talk and soldier manners, and Mrs 
Forrest had warned her husband to look out for his 
deportment as well as his safety. A week before, while 
we were at Monterey, the colonel rode over to Folk's 
camp, borrowed the sons of Bishop Otey and General 
Donelson (they were about Willy's age, fifteen) and 
brought them back so Willy would have someone 
his own age to be with. 

Forrest returned first. He was dripping wet, angry, 
and worried. I usually steered clear of him at such 
times but this couldnt wait. Just as I was about to 
report, however, there was a whoop of laughter and 
catcalls, and through the opening of the tent we saw 
the three boys marching a batch of prisoners in the 
rain. They had struck out together soon after the 


taking of the Peach Orchard, making a tour of the 
field, and on the way back they came upon a group 
of about a dozen Yank stragglers in a ravine near the 
river a sorry, bedraggled lot sitting like mudturtles 
on some logs. The boys threw down on them with 
their shotguns, put them in column, and marched 
them into camp. Reporting to the colonel with their 
prisoners, they were the three proudest boys in the 
Confederacy. Forrest was so pleased and amused he 
even forgot to scold them. 

But he became serious enough when I told him 
what Fd seen from the overlook. He called for the six 
troopers and we put on the blue overcoats and went 
out. As soon as he had found out for himself that 
what I reported was true, we came back down the 
mound and he led the way straight for the camp of 
Chalmers, whose troops were sleeping on the ground 
where Prentiss surrendered. The general was asleep 
when we got there, but Forrest made one of the aides 
wake him up. He came out to us still in his fighting 
clothes, a young man, his eyes puffed almost shut 
with fatigue and his hair rumpled in a wave on one 
side from sleeping on it. 

His troops had done some of the hardest fighting 
on the field, and when he bedded them down for the 
night he didnt doubt that tomorrow would complete 
the victory. Hearing that the Army of the Ohio had 



come up, he shook Ms head he couldnt believe it 
When Forrest made It clear he 
them arriving on steamboats from down the river^ 
it jarred him completely awake. But he wouldnt 
agree to a night attack. His men were too weary, he 
said. Besides, he couldnt make an attack without 
orders from Corps or Army headquarters. Johnston 
was dead; he didnt know where to find either Bragg 
or Beauregard. So that was that as far as he was 
concerned. All through the scene Forrest's face had 
been getting redder and redder, a sure sign his anger 
was rising I have seen his face go red as brickdust 
and at last he stood up from the camp stool and 
shook his finger in General Chalmers' face. 

"If the enemy comes on us in the morning, we'll 
be whipped like hell," he said. And stomped out. 

It was the same everywhere we went. No brigadier 
was willing to make an attack without orders from 
above, not even those who realized that waiting for 
the Federals to complete their reinforcement meant 
sure defeat for us after daylight. The main difference 
between Chalmers and the other brigadiers we man- 
aged to stumble on was that he knew where his men 
were bivouacked most of them had no idea. They 
were waiting for morning, they said, when they could 
get their troops into line and renew the attack. And 
every time they said this, Forrest got a little redder 


in the face and began to tremble and told them the 
same thing he'd told Chalmers: "We'll be whipped 
like hell." Then we'd go on to another camp, trying 
to persuade another general Everywhere, always, it 
was the same no attack without orders: the men 
were too tired to advance till they had their sleep out. 
Over and over again we heard it. It was enough to 
make an angel cuss, let alone N. B. Forrest. 

I left him about one o'clock, dead on my feet, but 
he kept right on going from camp to camp, blunder- 
ing around in the wet and the dark, trying to locate 
someone with enough rank and gumption to move 
against the landing. He finally found General Brackin- 
ridge, who was a corps commander not to mention 
Vice President of the United States, just over a year 
ago, when we were all one country but Breckin- 
ridge said that as head of the Army reserve he did 
not have the authority to order an attack. He didn't 
know where Beauregard was sleeping nor Polk, he 
said, nor Bragg but he told him where to find 
Hardee, and Hardee was a fighter. 

But there it was even worse. Forrest couldnt so 
much as get past the staff, though at length he man- 
aged to see the AAG, a tall thin middle-aged man 
with a lisp, wearing a bathrobe and carpet slippers, 
who heard what Forrest had to say and then dismissed 
him, saying the information was sure to be known at 



headquarters akeady. He yawned as he spoke, the 
words sounding hollow: 

"You can rest assured they know whats best up 
there. We have akeady received orders to attack 
at day dawn/ 3 He tapped his teeth with his fingertips, 
yawning. "So go back to your troops, colonel, and 
keep up a strong and vigilant picket line all along 
your front." 

This was the brand of talk that made Forrest 
maddest. Nine times out of ten he'd have exploded 
right there in the staff officer's face, would have 
reached out and grabbed him, bathrobe and all, but 
I suppose he knew it was too late akeady, even if he 
could have got Hardee to order an advance. BuelTs 
army was mostly ashore by now, probably, and our 
men needed all the rest they could get for the fight 
against fresh troops tomorrow morning. 

I took one of die blankets off the Yankee colonel's 
bed ( it would be Forrest's bed tonight; there was 
enough cover on it to wrap a regiment) and spread 
it on the ground in one corner of the tent. But before 
I even had time to tuck it round me I fell asleep. I 
knew I was tired but I hadnt known how tired. The 
minute my head came level with my feet, every 
muscle in my body turned to jelly. I took a deep 
breath, intending to heave a sigh, but I dont know to 
this good day whether I did or not. Before I could 



let it out again I was gone from this world, gone to 
what my old nurse back in Texas used to call Snooze 

Next thing I knew, there was a thumping and 
groaning, mixed with a jingling and the sound of 
someone cussing a blue streak. I raised myself on one 
elbow, pulled the blanket around me at last, and 
looked across the tent. It was Forrest, sitting on the 
edge of the Yankee colonel's bed and wrastling his 
boots off. The jingling was the spurs, but the rest of 
it was just Forrest being angry. He was talking to 
himself, muttering something about a vigilant picket 
line, a bathrobe and a pair of carpet slippers. None 
of it made any sense to me. The lightning had stopped 
and so had the thunder. The wind had fallen, too, but 
the rain drummed steadily against the tent. 

Just as I was about to get up and help him, tired 
as I was, he got the boots off and lay back on the 
bed, still mumbling. I could smell him; any time he 
got thoroughly mad you could smell it. Suddenly 
the tent was filled with snoring. I began to drift back 
to sleep myself, smelling the strong sweat of Forrest's 
anger and thinking how much I had lived through 
today and how different tonight was from last night, 
when we'd bivouacked on the south bank of Lick 
Creek and lain there listening to the Federal bands 
serenading us unbeknownst. For a second there flicked 


across my mind a picture of the boy who had come 
up to me that afternoon at the crossroads near the 
chapel and asked where a doctor was. I wondered if 
he made it but only for a second: there were lots 
like him, and besides I was asleep by then. 

The sound of firing woke me. Dawn had come, 
paling the canvas so that the first thing I saw when I 
opened my eyes was the big U S stenciled on the 
ceiling (I saw it in reverse: S U , directly above my 
head) and when I looked around I saw I was alone in 
the tent. When Forrest let a man sleep like that, it 
meant he was pleased with his work. 

By the time I got myself unwrapped from the 
blanket and out in front of the tent, the firing had 
swelled to a steady clatter like the sound of a wagon 
crossing a canefield, stalks popping against the axle- 
tree. The Union infantry was roaring to the attack. 
Charging, they made a different sound from us. Ours 
was a high yipping series of yells, like foxhunters 
coursing, but theirs was a deep roar, like surf on a 
stormy night. It was somehow more organized, more 
concerted, as if they had practiced beforehand, and 
it came from down deep in their chests instead of 
up high in their throats. 

They will tell you Shiloh was no cavalry batde; 
the field was too cut-up with ravines and choked with 
timber for the usual mounted work. However, none 



of Forrest's men realized this at the time, and we had 
our moments. By that time he'd developed us to 
the point where we were more horse-infantry than 
cavalry. We used our horses more to get there on 
than to fight on. That was his tactics: "Get there 
first with the most men" only he didnt call it 
Tactics; he called it Bulge: "Fifteen minutes of bulge 
is worth a week of tactics," and his orders to us were 
always direct, in language a man could understand: 
"Shoot at everything blue and keep up the scare" or 
"Hit them on the end," where a West Pointer would 
have said: "Be aggressive" or "Engage them on the 

All through the long day's fight, while the battle 
went against us, we were not downhearted and we 
never failed to do whatever was required of us as 
long as the colonel was out front in his shirtsleeves, 
swinging that terrible sword. That was his way. He'd 
tried the night before to get them to do what he 
knew was right, and if the generals hadnt seen it 
his way he wasnt going to sit and sulk about it. We 
fought them mounted; we fought them dismounted, 
standing or running, all over that blasted field where 
the dead lay thick as leaves at harvest time. There 
was never a let-up until the thing was done. 

Look at this notice he put in the Memphis Appeal; 


he was op there recovering from his Fallen Timbers 


I will receive 200 able-bodied men if they will 
present themselves at my headquarters by the first 
of June with good horse and gun. I wish none but 
those who desire to be actively engaged. Come on, 
boys, if you want a heap of fun and to kill some 

Colonel, Commanding 
Forrest's Regiment. 


I used to think how strange it was that the twelve 
of us had been brought together by an event which 
separated brothers and divided the nation. Each of us 
had his history and each of the histories was filled 
with accidental happenings. 

Myself for instance: I was born in New England 
and was taken to Indiana, adopted me out of an 
orphanage. I was six at the time I can barely remem- 
ber. "Your name is Robert," they said; "Robert 
Winter." It was my first ride on a train. "You are 
our son Robert. We are taking you home," Then 
we ate sandwiches out of a paper bag. For years I 
thought all children came from Boston. 

Thats what I mean by accidental. I had to be 
adopted out of a New England orphanage to become 
part of an Indiana squad. And it was the same all 

down the line. Every one of the twelve had his own 
particular story. 

This tied in with what Corporal Blake said during 
one of the halts Sunday while we were marching 
from Stony Lonesome toward the sound of guns 
across the creek He said books about war were written 
to be read by God Amighty, because no one but God 
ever saw it that way. A book about war, to be read 
by men, ought to tell what each of the twelve of us 
saw in our own little corner. Then it would be the 
way it was not to God but to us. 

I saw what he meant but it was useless talking. 
Nobody would do it that way. It would be too 
jumbled. People when they read, and people when 
they write, want to be looking out of that big Eye 
in the sky, playing God. 

But the strange thing was that I should think of 
it now, lying before sunup on the edge of the battle- 
field. Then again, tired and wrought-up as we were 
from all the waiting and the bungled march the day 
before, I suppose almost anything could have come 
into my mind. We had marched onto the field after 
dark. The first I saw of it was when daylight filtered 
through and we were lying there waiting for the 
shooting to get started again. We werent green we 
had seen our share of killing: but this was different 
to begin with. We had heard so many tales the night 



before. The army had been wrecked, they told us; 
we were marching in for the surrender- 

division, Lew Wallace commanding, was in 
position on the east side of a hollow. There were 
woods thick on both sides and a creek down in the 
draw. Across it, half a mile away, where the opposite 
slope rose up in a bluff, the rebels were lined up 
waiting. We could see their battle flags and sunlight 
sparkling on a battery near the center of their line. 

We were the flank division of Grant's army. Snake 
Creek, which we crossed the night before, was off to 
our right. When dawn broke and the sun came 
through the haze, I lay there in the grass, watching 
it glint on the fieldpieces, and I thought: Oh-oh. If 
Wallace sends us across that hollow in the face of 
those guns, he's going to have considerably fewer of 
us when we reach the other side. 

There was a long quiet period, nearly an hour, 
while the two armies lay and looked across the 
vacant space like two dogs sizing each other up. Then 
firing began to sputter over on the left, like growling, 
nothing much at first but finally a steady clatter, 
growing louder and louder, swelling along the front 
toward where we lay. 


"Hey, sarge," Winter said. "If they marched up 
here looking for a fight, why dont they come on?" 

I didnt answer. Then Klein: "Maybe they know 
Buell got in last night." Klein was always ready with 
some kind of remark. 

"Let the generals plan the war/' I told him. "All 
you are paid to do is fight it." 

I really thought our time had come. But Wallace 
had more sense than to send us naked across that draw 
against those guns. He ordered up two of his batteries, 
one in front of where we were and another down 
the line. They tuned up, ranging in on the brassy 
glints on the bluff. We enjoyed watching them work. 
Thompson's battery, which was directly to our front, 
did especially well. We watched the balls rise like 
black dots, getting smaller, then come down on the 
rebel guns across the hollow. The cannoneers were 
lively, proud to be putting on a show, and every now 
and then we cheered them. It didnt last long. As 
soon as one of the secesh guns was dismounted by a 
direct hit, the whole battery limbered and got out. 
That was what we had been waiting for. 

It's not often you see war the way a civilian thinks 
it is, but it was that way now. We were center 
brigade, and since our company G was just to 
the right of the brigade center, we saw the whole 
show. Wallace was directly in our rear, standing beside 

1 66 


his horse and watching the artillery duel through his 
field glasses. Grant rode up with RawHns and dis- 
mounted within six feet of Wallace, but Wallace was 
so busy with his glasses that he didnt know Grant was 
there until one of the division staff officers coughed 
nervously: "General . . ." Then Wallace turned and 
saw Grant. 

There was bad blood between them and our poor 
showing yesterday hadnt helped matters, Wallace 
saluted and Grant returned it, touching the brim of 
his hat with the tips of his fingers. He had the look 
of a man who has missed his sleep. His uniform was 
rumpled even worse than usual, and he stood so as to 
keep the weight off his left ankle, which he had 
sprained two days ago when his horse fell on him. 

I could not hear what they were saying (both 
batteries were going full blast now) but I saw Grant 
motion with his arm as he talked and Wallace kept 
nodding his head in quick, positive jerks. It was clear 
that Grant was indicating the direction of attack he 
pointed toward the bluff, stabbing the air but it 
seemed foolish to me, seeing we had been given our 
orders already. 

When the rebel battery fell back, their infantry 
went with it. Grant mounted, still talking and motion- 
ing with his arm. Wallace kept nodding Yes, I 


understand: Yes and Grant rode away, RawBns jog- 
ging beside him. 

Wallace passed between ns and Company F. He 
went about a hundred yards out front, then turned 
his horse and faced us. This must have been some sort 
of signal to the brigade commanders, for all the battle 
flags tilted forward at once and the whole division 
stepped out, advancing with brigades in echelon and 
not even being fired on. It was pretty as a picture. 

Until we struck the scrub oaks halfway down the 
slope we could see from flank to flank, blue flags 
uncased, snapping in the breeze, and the rifles of the 
skirmishers catching sunlight. Wallace sat on his horse, 
waiting for us to come past. As we opened ranks and 
flowed around him, we put our caps on the ends of 
our gun barrels and gave him a cheer. He raised him- 
self in the saddle and lifted his hat as we went by. 
His mustache was black against his high-colored face 
and his teeth showed white beneath it. He was 
thirty-four, the youngest major general in the army. 

We went on, tramping through underbrush, walk- 
ing with our rifles held crossways to keep from 
getting slapped in the face by limbs. As we crossed 
the creek I saw the line again for a couple of hundred 
yards both right and left, the yellow water splashing 
calf-deep as the men passed over. Then we were 
climbing. We went on up the bluff was not as steep 



as It had looked from across the draw; It wasnt really 
a bluff at all then reached the flat where the rebel 
cannon lay wrecked. Its bronze tube had been thrown 
sidewise, with a big dent at the breech where the 
cannonball came down, and both wheels were canted 
inward toward the broken splinter-bar* Off to one 
side lay a pinch-faced cannoneer, as dead as dead 
could be. With his long front teeth and his pooched- 
out cheeks he looked a little like a chipmunk. The 
men stood gawking at him. 

"All right," I told them. "All right. Let it go." 
The ground was high and level here, without so 
many trees, and we could see toward the left where 
the supporting division was supposed to have kept up. 
That was Sherman. But there were no men out there, 
either Union or Confederate, so we got orders from 
Captain Tubbs to form a defensive line till the front 
was restored. 

I got the squad organized. So far so good, I thought. 
But I was beginning to feel a little jumpy. It was too 
easy: a walk in the woods on a sunny Monday morn- 
ing, with nothing to bother us but wet socks from 
crossing the creek. There were bound to be hard 
things coming. 



Talk about lucky I never knew what it was. Just 
when everything was going good and I had organized 
myself a nice grassy spot to take it easy while the 
outfit on our left came even with us, I looked up and: 
spat: a big fat raindrop hit me square in the eye. At 
first they were few and far between, dropping one 
by one, plumping against the dead leaves with a sound 
like a leaky tap, then faster and faster, pattering a 
regular summer shower. It had been bad enough 
trying to sleep in it the night before, with our oilcloths 
left back at Stony Lonesome. Now we were going 
to have to fight in it as well. For a while it rained in 
sunshine (the devil beating his wife) but soon that 
passed too; there was only the gray rain falling slant- 
wise, shrouding the woods. 

We waited and waited, hunched over our cartridge 
boxes trying to keep the rain out. Sergeant Bonner 
was next to me, still wearing that coon-dog look on 
Ms face. I never knew a man so eager, so conscious 
of his stripes. 

"Rebel weather," I said to be saying something. 

He said, "I reckon they dont like it any better than 
we do, Klein. It wets their powder just as damp as 


Bonner was like that* Either he wouldnt answer 
you at all or he would say something to catch you up 
short. Holliday, on my other flank, grinned at me 



through the rain, winking and jerking his head 
toward the sergeant. Grissom was on the other side of 
HoUiday; he kept the breech of his rifle under his 
coat and held the palm of his hand over the muzzle 
to keep out the rain. Diffenbuch was farther down 
the line, squatting with his collar hiked up, not paying 
any mind to anyone. 

On the far side of the sergeant, Joyner began to 
yell: "Come on down, Raymond. More rain more 
rest." He always called the rain Raymond I never 
knew why. Joyner was a card. Once at Donelson, 
where we nearly froze to death, he kept us warm 
just laughing at him, till his face went numb with 
the cold and he couldnt talk. 

After a while the rain slacked up and Thompson's 
battery began to bang away at a column of johnnies 
coming along a road to the right. That started the 
trouble. Somewhere out beyond the curtain of steely 
rain it was thinner now but we still couldnt see 
more than a couple of hundred yards in any direction 
there began to be a series of muffled sounds, sort 
of like slapping a mattress with a stick, and right 
behind the booms came some whistling sounds arching 
toward us through the trees: artillery. We lay there, 
hugging the ground, never minding the wet. Every 
now and then one was low, bopping around and bang- 



ing against the tree trunks. It was nothing new to us. 
But it was no fun either. 

The rain stopped during the cannonade, almost as 
quick as it started, and the sun came out again. Every- 
thing glistened shiny new. We were at the edge of a 
big field. Beyond a strip of woods on the right was 
another field even bigger. In the trees at the other end 
of the far field, just as the sun came clear, we saw a 
host of grayback cavalry bearing down on the third 
brigade with their flashing sabers looking clean and 
rain-washed too. They rode through the skirmishers, 
on toward the main line. There they met a volley 
from massed rifles. It was as if they had run into a 
trip wire. Men and horses went down in a scramble, 
all confused, and the column turned, what was left 
of it, and rode back through the woods. It all hap- 
pened in a hurry. Except for the wounded skirmishers, 
walking back with blood running down their faces 
from the saber hacks, they hadnt hurt us at all. 
Lavery said, "Wasnt that pretty, DifF?" 
I didnt see anything pretty about it, God for- 
give him. 



Sherman finally caught up and we went forward 
together, across the first field, through the fringe of 
trees, and into the second, crossing toward where the 
cavalry charge had begun. When we were within a 
hundred yards, still holding our fire, a long deep line 
of men in gray jackets and brown wide-brim hats 
stood up from the brush and fired directly in our 
faces. It was the loudest noise I ever heard, and the 
brightest flash. There was artillery mixed up in it, too. 

I fired one round, not even taking aim, and wheeled 
off at a run for the rear. Half the secret of being a 
good soldier is knowing when to stand and when to 
run the trouble was, so many got killed before they 
learned it. But there was no doubt about which 
to do now. 

We stopped in the woods between the two fields. 
Bonner began to count heads. Klein and Winter 
were missing. "All right," Bonner said. "Lets form! 
Lets form!" 

Then Klein came walking up. That Klein: he'd 
stayed out with the skirmishers a while. He said, "I 
waited to give them a chance to shoot at you birds 
before I crawled back across that field. Fm nobody's 

"Lets form!" Sergeant Bonner was yelling. "Lets 

Before too long all three brigades were in line at 



the fringe of trees between those two fields. The 
skirmishers Nebraska boys stayed out in the open, 
lying behind hillocks and brush clumps, firing into 
the woods where the rebels had stood up to blast us. 
When we went forward this tune, passing the skir- 
mishers, we knew what we would meet. That made 
a difference. Crossing, we stopped from time to time 
to fall on one knee, fire and reload, and worked our 
way ahead like that. Fifty yards short of the woods 
we gave them a final volley and went in with the 
bayonet. This time it was the johnnies ran. 

We took some prisoners there, our first for the 
day. They were a scraggly lot. Their uniforms were 
like something out of a ragbag and they needed hair- 
cuts worse than any men I ever saw. They had beards 
of all kinds, done up to make them look ferocious, 
those that were old enough to grow them, and they 
had a way of talking jabber jabber that I couldnt 
follow. They were from Louisiana, Frenchies off the 
New Orleans wharfs. They called themselves the 
Crescent Regiment and were supposed to be one of 
the best the Confederates had on the field. They didnt 
look so capable to me. 

That was the first hard fighting of the day. We 
ran into plenty just like it and some more that was 
worse, but generally speaking it was nothing like as 
bad as we expected. To hear the stragglers tell it 



when we came across Snake Creek the previous 
night, we were going to be cut to pieces before 
sunup. It turned out there was plenty of cutting done t 
but we were the ones who did it, not the rebels. 
Maybe they were fought to a frazzle the day before, 
or maybe the news that Buell had come up took the 
wind out of their sails, or maybe they had already 
decided to retreat. Anyhow, every time we really 
pushed them they gave. 

So if Wallace was worried about his reputation 
because of our poor showing on the Sunday march, 
he could stop fretting now. We more than redeemed 
ourselves in the Monday fight. 

This goes back. Sunday morning we'd waked up 
hearing firing from the direction of Pittsburg, five 
miles south. It began like a picket clash but it grew to 
a regular roar, the heavy booming of cannon coming 
dull behind the rattle of musketry. It may have been 
our imagination but we thought we felt the ground 
tremble. The three brigades of our division were 
strung out two miles apart on the road running west 
the first at Crump's Landing on the Tennessee, the 
second (ours) at Stony Lonesome, and the third at 
Adamsville, a little over four miles from Crump's, 


Soon after the sound of battle grew heavy we got 
orders to send our baggage to the Landing for safe 
keeping. The other brigades marched in from east 
and west, joining us at our camp. Wallace didnt 
know whether he was going to have to defend his 
present position or be prepared to march to the table- 
land back of Pittsburg. In either case he had to con- 
centrate and Stony Lonesome was the place for that. 
If there was an attack here, it was best not to receive 
it with our backs too close to the river. If we were to 
march to Pittsburg to reinforce Grant's other divi- 
sions, there were two roads we could take. They ran 
from our camp like a V, both crossing Snake Creek 
on the right flank of the army. 

I went to Crump's as corporal in charge of the 
baggage detail. When I got there I saw Grant's dis- 
patch steamer, the Tigress, putting in for bank. Grant 
was standing on the texas deck. He had pulled his 
hat down over his eyes, against the morning sun, and 
his hands were on the railing. Wallace waited on 
another steamer tied at the wharf. Grant's head- 
quarters were at Savannah in a big brick house over- 
looking the river; every morning he made the nine- 
mile trip to Pittsburg to inspect the training. The way 
they told it later, he had just sat down to the breakfast 
table this Sunday morning and was lifting his coffee 
cup when he heard cannons Booming from up the 


river. He put down the cup without taking a sip* 
went straight to the wharf, boarded the Tigress, and 
ordered the captain to make full steam for Pittsbiirg. 

Passing Cramp's, the pilot warped in and Grant 
leaned over the rail and yelled to Wallace: "General, 
get your troops under arms and have them ready to 
move at a moment's notice/' Wallace shouted back 
that he'd already done this. Grant nodded approval 
and the pilot brought the Tigress about in a wide 
swing (she hadnt even slowed) and took her up the 

That was about eight oclock. When I got back to 
Stony Lonesome all three brigades were there, the 
troops resting by the side of the road with their 
packs on the grass and their rifles across their knees. 
The colonels, expecting march orders any minute, 
hadnt even allowed them to stack arms. I reported to 
the first sergeant and he sent me back to the squad. 

Sergeant Bonner was arguing with Klein about 
whether Klein could take his pack off. All the other 
squads had shed theirs long ago, and Klein was telling 
him he was torturing his men just to impress the 
officers; he was stripe-struck, Klein said, working for 
a dome on his chevrons. Bonner was riled which 
was what Klein wanted and just bull-headed enough 
to make us keep them on, now that Klein had made 
an issue of it. But finally he saw it was no use. "All 



right," he said. "Drop them/ 9 He didnt look at Klein 
as he said it. Klein took his pack off and leaned back 

Youd think twelve men who had been through as 
much as we had (and who expected to go through 
even worse, perhaps, within a very short time) would 
make it a point to get along among themselves. Most 
of us hated the army anyhow, shoved as we were 
away down here in this Rebel wilderness. Youd think 
we would try to make up for it by finding some sort 
of enjoyment in our squad relationships. But no. Not 
a waking hour passed that one of us wasnt bickering, 
nursing a grudge. I blamed it all on Bonner at one 
time; morale was one of his responsibilities. Then I 
saw it wouldnt be a lot different under anyone else. 
We hated the army; we hated the war (except when 
we were actually fighting it; then you dont have 
time) and we took it out on each other. 

We lounged there beside the road, chewing grass 
stems and sweating. The sun rose higher. From time 
to time the sound of guns would swell and then die 
down. Occasionally they faded to almost nothing, 
a mutter, and we would think perhaps it was over; 
Grant had surrendered. But then it would come up 
louder than ever. Some said the sound moved toward 
the left, which would mean Grant was retreating; 
others said it moved toward the right, which would 


mean he was advancing. Myself, I couldnt tell. Some- 
times It seemed to go one way, then another. 

Wallace and his staff, orderlies holding their horses* 
were across the road from our company, That was 
about the center of the column, the point where the 
road branched off toward the fighting. Whenever the 
sound swelled louder, Wallace would raise his head 
and stare in that direction. He would take out his 
watch, look at it hard for a moment, then put it back 
in his pocket and shake his head, fretting under 
Grant's instructions to hold his troops in position till 
orders came. He didnt like it. 

We stayed there three hours, and it seemed longer. 
At eleven-thirty a quartermaster captain galloped up 
on a lathered horse, dismounted, and handed Wallace 
a folded piece of paper. The general read it hurriedly, 
then slowly. He asked the captain something, and 
when the captain answered, Wallace turned to his 
staff. Within two minutes the couriers passed us on 
their horses, going fast. 

At that time the cooks were passing out grub. It 
was beans as usual. The orders were, finish eating 
within half an hour, fall in on the road, and be pre- 
pared to march hard. By noon we were under way 
toward the sound of firing. 

Then was when trouble began. From Stony Lone- 
some two roads ran south to the battlefield, both of 



them crossing Snake Creek, which was the right 
boundary. They formed a V with its angle at our 
starting point. The right arm of the V ran to a bridge 
connecting us with Sherman's line of camps. Wallace 
had had this bridge strengthened and the road 
corduroyed (I was on the detail myself, and a nasty 
detail it was, too) not only for an emergency such as 
this, in which Sherman needed us, but also for an 
emergency in which we would need Sherman it 
worked both ways. So when Wallace got orders to 
join the right flank of Grant's army, he naturally took 
this road. But that was when trouble began, as I said. 

It was five miles to the bridge. We were within a 
mile of it when a major from Grant's staff passed us 
with his horse in a lope. Shortly afterwards we were 
halted. It was hot and the dust was thick. We stood 
there. Soon we were surprised to see the head of the 
column coming toward us, off to one side of the road. 
They had countermarched. 

Finally the company ahead peeled off and fell in at 
the tail and we followed. All the way back, men in 
ranks on the road yelled at the column, asking what 
had happened "Did you forget to remember some- 
thing?" but by the time we came abreast (we were 
center brigade) theyd had enough of shouting and 
were quiet, standing in the road and breathing the 
dust we raised as we passed. 

1 80 


What had happened, Grant after sending the 
Q.M. captain with the note had got impatient wait- 
ing for us and at two oclock, when we still hadnt 
come, he sent this major to see what was the delay* 
The major, surprised at not finding us on the road 
nearest the river (the left arm of the V) had spurred 
his horse and caught up with Wallace just in time to 
prevent our marching directly into the arms of the 
rebs. That was the first we knew of Grant's being 
pushed back toward the Landing. 

When we got to the turn-around point, within 
sight of Stony Lonesome again, the sun had dropped 
almost level with the treetops and we were beginning 
to fag from the ten-mile hike. But there were six 
miles left to travel and we went hard, marching up the 
left arm of the V. Two more of Grant's staff officers 
were with us by then, Colonel Birdseye McPherson 
and Captain John Rawlins I saw them when they 
doubled back down the column with Wallace. They 
were egging him and he was chafing under it. 

The approach to Snake Creek bridge was through 
a swamp. By then the sun was all the way gone and 
we marched in a blue dusk. The boles of trees were 
pale and the backwater glistened. It was gloomy. 
Crossing the bridge we saw stragglers wading the 
creek, in too big a panic to wait for us to clear the 
bridge; they were in even too big a panic to wait for 



each other, crowding past with wet feet and flopping 
pants legs. When we shouted down at them, calling 
them skulkers and cowards, they yelled back: "Youll 
see! Youll find out!" and such like. They said Grant 
was whipped and we were marching in for the sur- 

It could have been true. The firing had died for 
the past hour, and now it was no more than an 
occasional sputter. We looked at each other, wonder- 
ing. But when we were across the bridge, onto the 
flank of the battlefield, we saw that the army was 
still there, what was left of it, and BuelFs men were 
coming up from the Landing. 

Then the rain began. We were put in line on the 
right of Sherman, along the road we had marched in 
on. Sherman's men had tales to tell. Most of these 
were descriptions of how the johnnies had overrun 
them, but they told some brave ones too. They said a 
boy in an Ohio regiment had been wounded and sent 
to the rear but came back a few minutes later and 
said to his company commander, "Captain, give me 
a gun. This damned fight aint got any rear." 

The rain came down harder and lightning flashed. 
It seemed like a year since we first left Stony Lone- 



When we had scattered that Crescent outfit, taking 
a batch of prisoners, we stopped to re-form and then 
went forward again. It was that way from then on. 
They wouldnt stand; they would just wait to ambush 
us, and every now and then they would come in a 
rush, screaming and yelling that wild crazy way they 
had. Sometimes it would shake us a bit, but generally 
not. They never really pushed it. 

The squad worked in two sections: Sergeant Bon- 
ner with Klein and Diffenbuch, Amory, Pope and 
Holliday; Corporal Blake with myself and Pettigrew, 
Grissom and Lavery. About four oclock Diffenbuch 
got hit in the shoulder and we left him leaned against 
a tree. Diffenbuch was always a quiet one, and he 
didnt have much to say even then. 

Raymond was coming and going but it wasnt like in 
training, where you could knock off when he came 
down. Right after Diff got hit it faired off and the 
sun came through. We were walking in sunlight then, 
dead men all over the place, some left from yesterday, 
twisted in ugly positions but washed clean by the 
rain. At one point I saw a reb and a Union man lying 
on opposite sides of the road, both in the standard 
prone position for firing. Their rifles were level and 
they both had one eye shut. They had the same 
wound, a neat red hole in the forehead, and they were 
stone dead, still lying there with the sights lined up 



they must have fired at the same time. Looking at 
them I thought of the terrible urgency they both 
must have felt in the last half -second before they 
both pulled trigger. 

We were approaching the camp where Sherman's 
tents were standing. They had run from here yester- 
day morning and now we were back where it started. 
The rebels had formed a line along the ridge. We 
charged them, bayonets fixed. 

That was where Pettigrew got his. 

I have seen my share of men get hit (at Donelson 
we were caught in a tight and lost five out of twelve 
in less than ten minutes) but I never saw one catch it 
as pretty as Pettigrew did. It was quick and hard 
not messy, either. 

We had formed in this draw, down the slope from 
the hogback where the tents were pitched. The 
johnnies had formed in front of the tents, advanced 
down to what they call the military crest, and we got 
set to go up after them. Corporal Blake was on the 
right, then myself, then Pettigrew, then Lavery. 
Sergeant Bonner, with the other five, was over beyond 

Captain Tubbs walked up and down, checking the 



platoons. Lieutenant McAfee stood fiddling with his 
sword. Warning came down from the right to get 
set. We passed it along. Then we heard Colonel 
Sanderson bellering and the company officers picking 
it up all down the line: Charge! Charge! and we went 
forward. The underbrush was thick here, creepers 
and briery vines twined round the trees. They made 
a crashing sound as we tramped through. 

Toward the crest they thinned and the going was 
easier. That was where they opened on us. The 
minies came our way, singing that song they sing, 
and that stopped us. We hugged the ground. "All 
right, men!" officers called. "All right!" We crouched 
in the bushes waiting for the word. 

Corporal Blake looked straight ahead. Pettigrew on 
my left was half turned in my direction, the expres- 
sion on his face no different from usual. When he 
saw me looking at him he grinned and said something 
I couldnt hear because of the bullets singing and 
plopping into tree trunks and the rifles banging away 
across the draw. 

While I was watching him it came: Charge! 
Charge! The whole line sprang up and started for- 
ward. I was still watching Pettigrew I dont know 
why; I certainly didnt have a premonition. As he 
went into it, bent forward and holding his rifle across 
his chest, the minie struck him low in the throat (I 


heard it hit, above all that racket; it was like when 
yon thump a watermelon) and he pitched forward 
with his arms flung out, crucified. 

When I stopped and leaned over him I saw that he 
was almost gone already. He knew it, too. He tried 
to tell me something, but all that came out was three 
words and a bubble of blood that swelled and broke: 

Tell my wife" 

Grissom was wounded just as they fell back. We 
had taken the ridge and they were retreating across 
the swampy hollow, almost out of rifle range, when 
one of them stopped and kneeled and pinked Grissom 
in the thigh. He sat down with his hands over the 
bullet hole and began to laugh and cry at the same 
time, like crazy. I think he was unnerved from seeing 
Pettigrew get it the way he did back there in the 
swale. They came from the same home town, grew 
up together. Pettigrew saved Grissom's life once by 
getting the drop on a sniper at Donelson. He sat there 
with blood oozing between his fingers, laughing and 
crying, both at once, saying he'd got himself a fur- 



lough to go home to Indiana and tell Pettigrew's wife 
how her husband caught one quick and easy. 

It turned out that was the last attack of the day. 
Wallace sent word to hold up. That was enough, he 
told us. And if anyone thinks we werent glad to hear 
it, let him try pushing an army of rebels through 
three miles of scrub oak and briers. The johnnies 
formed a line about a mile farther on. Probably, 
though, they were no more anxious to receive a 
charge than we were to deliver one. The way it 
looked to me, they were willing to call it a day if ive 

We sat on the grass along the ridge where Sher- 
man's camp was. There was a creek and a bog in the 
draw, and all across the valley, both sides of the creek, 
there were dead rebs so thick you could cross it 
almost without touching your feet to the ground. 
Mostly they had been there since yesterday, and they 
were plenty high. 

We were shifted around some then, being put in 
a defensive line, but there was no more fighting that 
day. While we were resting, the burial details went 
to work. The Union dead were buried by their own 
outfits, tagged and identified one by one and all to- 
gether. But they buried the johnnies in groups near 
where they fell. It was interesting to watch, to see the 


way they did it. One of these burial trenches was near 
where we halted and we watched them at work. 

They dug a trench about a hundred feet long, so 
deep that when they were finishing all we could see 
was flying dirt and the bright tips of their shovels. 
Fast as the collecting wagons brought the rebel bodies 
(all with their pockets turned inside-out) they laid 
them face-up, head-to-foot the length of the trench, 
each corpse resting its head between the feet of the 
corpse behind. It wasnt nearly as neat as it sounds, 
though most of them had stiffened in awkward 
positions. I had noticed that many of them out on the 
field lay on their backs with their knees drawn up 
like women in labor. The diggers had to stomp the 
worst ones in. 

The next row they laid in the other direction, still 
face-up but with their heads pointing the opposite 
way. They put them in like that, row above row, 
until the top ones were almost level with the grass. 
Then they threw in dirt which was a relief; rebels 
generally rotted faster than our men. They turned 
blacker, too. Maybe the different rations had some- 
thing to do with it. Or maybe it was just the mean- 
ness in them. 

There was a big Irishman doing most of the shovel 
work. He seemed to enjoy it, and we got a laugh out 
of watching him. Throwing in dirt and smoothing it 



over, he would pat a dead reb on the face with the 
back of his shovel and say in a voice like a preacher, 
"Now lay there, me bye. Lay there quite till the 
doomsday trump. And dont ye be fomenting no more 
rebellions down there where ye're burrning." 

Winter and Pettigrew were dead, Diffenbuch and 
Grissom wounded. Thirty-three and a third percent is 
high casualties in anybody's battle. But as usual Squad 
Three had caught the brunt end of the stick. Some 
squads hadnt lost a man. Out of one dozen hurt in 
Company G, four were ours, all from one squad. It 
just goes to show. 

Bonner was a glory hunter. Anytime he could 
make himself look good by pushing us into a hot 
place, that was just what he did, and the hotter the 
better. Most squads liked to share the glory work, but 
not ours we hogged it. Or Bonner did, which 
amounts to the same thing. I was talking to Klein and 
told him I had made up my mind to put in for a 

"What ails you, Amory?" he said. "Aint you happy 
in your work?" 

"Happy, hell," I said. "It's not fair. Thats what." 



I knew it sounded foolish because I couldnt express 
myself very well. But I still wanted that transfer. 

Watching the way they buried those rebels didnt 
help matters. I kept thinking maybe someday it might 
work out the other way round, so that the johnnies 
would be the ones doing the burying, and I sure didnt 
want to be stuffed into any ditch like that, all packed 
together without a marker or anything, no one to say 
a prayer when they let me down, no one to tell them 
back home how bravely I died. 

When a man gives his life for his country he wants 
to get the worth of it, if you see what I mean. 

Just before sundown they marched us away. Sher- 
man's men moved into their camps (without even a 
thank-you for us winning them back) and we went 
over to the far right and bivouacked near Owl Creek 
for the night. The mess crew came down from Stony 
Lonesome with our supper beans again. Night closed 
in while we ate. We sat in a big huddle, dirty, dog 
tired. The moon, in its first quarter, came up early in 
a cloudy sky. We bedded down. 

I was so tired my legs were twitching; I couldnt 
even relax to go to sleep. We had paired off for 
warmth Bonner and Joyner, Blake and Holliday, 



Klein and Lavery, Amory and myself all lying on 
the leeward side of a blackberry clump. Amory had 
organized himself a strip of blanket from one of the 
cooks. It wasnt much help to me, though* Soon as he 
went to sleep he began to roll, wrapping it round and 
around him. For a while I tugged back, wanting my 
share, but then I gave it up and just lay there. It 
wasnt really cool enough for a blanket anyhow, though 
it probably would be before morning. In this crazy, 
no-account country a man could never tell what 
weather the next hour was going to bring. 

I thought about Winter and Pettigrew lying out 
there dead in the woods unless one of the burial squads 
got to them before nightfall. I thought for a minute: 
What did those two die for? And the answer came 
back: Nothing. It was like a voice in the night: They 
died for nothing. 

This war was so much easier for the Confederates. 
I could see how they would feel different about the 
whole thing, thinking they were fighting to form a 
new nation the way our grandfathers did back in '76 
and believing they would go down among the heroes 
in the books. That was why they were so frantic in 
their charges, coming against our lines with those wild 
crazy yells, not minding their losses. With us it was 
not that way at all. They had dared us to fight and 



we fought. I thought it must be lots easier to fight 
f or something than it was to fight against something. 

But that was what the voice said. I also remembered 
what Corporal Blake said once. It was back in 
February, after Donelson; we lost six men in that 
fight, including one that froze to death. Blake said 
the rebels were really on our side. It sounded crazy 
but he explained it. He said they wanted the same 
things we wanted, the right kind of life, the right 
kind of government all that but theyd been misled 
by bad men. When they learned the truth they would 
stop fighting, he said. 

As usual, though, when I began thinking stuff like 
that my mind got all confused, mixed up, and every- 
thing ran right back to the beginning. Winter and 
Pettigrew were lying dead out there in the woods and 
I was not. What right did I have thinking it was up 
to me to say why? 


7 Palmer Metcalfe 

I had lost my horse in the charge at the Fallen 
Timbers. Now I held onto the tailgate of a wagon 
filled with wounded, letting it pull me along because 
my boots had not been made for walking. Rain fell 
in slanted, steely pencilings. There was a constant 
murmur, the groans of the wounded as the long slow 
agonized column wound between weeping trees and 
wet brown fields; just ahead I could hear their teeth 
grinding and even the faint scrabbling of fingernails 
against the planks of the springless wagon bed. It was 
the same road we had followed into battle, only now 
we were going in the opposite direction and there 
was no reappearing sun to cause the troops to quicken 
the step. 

Country people, the men in gallussed jeans, the 
women in gingham, stood on their porches or came 
out into the rain to watch us pass. They had been 



there Friday and Saturday, while we were going in. 
Now it was Tuesday and we were coming out. We 
half expected them to look at us reproachfully, who 
had passed their way so recently with such high 
promises, but they did not. Their faces showed noth- 
ing at all, or almost nothing. Perhaps there was sorrow 
but certainly there was no reproach. Truth to tell, 
however, my boots were hurting me to an extent that 
didnt encourage physiognomy. 

The only face I was really conscious of was the 
face of a boy in the rear of the wagon; he looked out 
over the tailgate, our heads on a line and less than a 
yard apart. He wore a checkered homespun shirt 
which was half gone because of the way the surgeons 
had slit it when they took off his left arm. The skin 
of his face was the color of parchment, with deep 
azure circles under the eyes. When the jolts of the 
wagon were especially hard, I could hear his teeth 
grind and see the shape of them behind his lips. He 
looked at once young and old, like the boy in the 
tale who aged suddenly because of some unspeakable 
overnight experience in a haunted house. His head 
bobbed and weaved in time with the jogging of the 
wagon. He muttered to himself, saying the same thing 
over and over: "It dont hurt much, Captain; I just 
cant lift it." The stump, which was boneless, extended 



about four inches below his armpit. Wrapped in a 
rag, it swung there, a little bloody sack of bloody 

There were many like him in that column, men 
who had been wounded and lain in the woods some- 
times for twenty-four hours, under the pelting rain 
and the shells from the gunboats, until they found 
strength to crawl to a collecting center or were dis- 
covered by the aid men and carried to one. From 
hilltops I could look forward and back and see the 
long column strung out for miles in both directions, 
twisting and squirming like a crippled snake. In almost 
every wagon there were men begging to be lifted out, 
to be laid on the ground beside the road and allowed 
to die in peace without the jolting. Their eyes were 
either hot and bright with fever or dull with shock. 
Whenever a wagon did halt it was only for a moment, 
to take out a dead one and go on again. 

That was the first time I ever knew what it was to 
have to keep walking when everything in me said 
stop. About midaftemoon I fell out beside the road 
and slit both boots at the instep with a pocket knife. 
That helped some, but not much. Wagons kept pass- 
ing me, the mules in a slow walk, and finally I caught 
hold of one and let it tow me along. That way, with- 
out having to bother to do more than lift my feet and 
let them swing forward with the pull of the wagon, 



I found my mind went Idle and I saw again General 
Johnston the way I had seen him at two oclock Sun- 
day afternoon, the last time I saw him alive. 

One of Breckinridge's brigades had recoiled from a 
charge against a ridge in the Hornets Nest and the 
officers were having trouble getting them back into 
line to go forward again; they didnt want any more 
of it right then. General Johnston watched this for 
a while, then rode out front. He had taken his hat 
off, holding it with his left hand against his thigh, and 
in his right hand he held the small tin cup he had 
picked up in a captured camp earlier In the day. As 
he passed down the line he leaned sideways in the 
saddle and touched the points of the bayonets with 
the cup. It made a little clink each time. 

"These must do the work," he said. 

When the line had formed he rode front and center 
and turned his horse Fire-eater, a thoroughbred bay 
toward the crest where the Union troops were wait- 

"I will lead you!" he cried. 

The men sent up a shout. General Johnston set spurs 
in his horse and the brigade went forward, cheering, 
at a run. Charging through the thickest fire I ever saw, 
they took the crest, halted to re-form, and stood there 
waving their flags and yelling so loud that the leaves 
on the trees seemed to tremble. The general came 



riding back with a smile on his face, teeth flashing 
beneath his mustache. His battle blood was up; his 
eyes had a shine like bright glass. Fire-eater was hit in 
four places. There were rips and tears in the general's 
uniform and his left bootsole had been cut nearly in 
half by a minie ball. He shook his foot so the dangling 
leather flapped. "They didnt trip me up that time!" 
he said, laughing. 

This was the charge that began to break the Hornets 
Nest. I was sent with a message for Beauregard on the 
other flank, telling him we were moving forward 
again, and when I came back General Johnston's 
body was already stretched out for removal from the 
field. They told me how he died from a wound in 
the right leg, a hurt so slight that anyone with a 
simple knowledge of tourniquets could have saved 
him. Doctor Yandell, his surgeon, had been with him 
all through the battle, but shortly before the final 
attack near the peach orchard, the general ordered 
him to establish an aid station for a group of Federal 
wounded he saw at one point on the field. When the 
doctor protested, General Johnston cut him off. 

"These men were our enemies a moment ago," he 
said. "They are our prisoners now. Take care of 

When I heard this, that the general had died be- 
cause of his consideration for men who a short time 



before had been shooting at him and doing all in their 
power to wreck his cause, I remembered what my 
father had said abont the South bearing within itself 
the seeds of defeat, the Confederacy being conceived 
already moribund. We were sick from an old malady, 
he said: incurable romanticism and misplaced chivalry, 
too much Walter Scott and Dumas read too seriously. 
We were in love with the past, he said; in love with 

He enjoyed posing as a realist and straight thinker 
war was more shovelry than chivalry, he said but 
he was a highly romantic figure of a man himself and 
he knew it, he with his creased forehead and his tales 
of the war in Texas, with his empty sleeve and his 
midnight drinking beneath the portrait of his wife in 
that big empty house in New Orleans. He talked that 
way because of some urge for self-destruction, some 
compulsion to hate what he had become: an old man 
with a tragic life, who sent his son off to a war he 
was too maimed to take part in himself. It was regret. 
It was regret of a particular regional form. 

I thought of these things while we rode beside the 
ambulance taking General Johnston's body back to 
the headquarters where we had slept the night before, 
where we had crawled from under our blankets at 
dawn to hear him say that by dark we'd water our 
horses in the Tennessee which, incidentally, some 



Mississippi cavalry outfit did. Beauregard had ordered 
the fighting stopped, intending to reorganize and com- 
plete the victory tomorrow morning. Colonel Preston 
and the rest of the staff, believing they could be of 
little use since all that remained to be done (they 
thought) was to show Grant a solid front and receive 
his surrender decided to accompany the body to 
Corinth and then by rail to St Louis Cemetery in New 
Orleans, where my own people had their crypts. 

So I told them goodbye and watched them ride off 
with the ambulance in the twilight, the sound of the 
guns dying with a growl and a rumble back toward 
the river. The rain began to fall, first with a series of 
minute ticking sounds like a watch running down, 
then with a steady patter. I had come up here to fight 
the battle and it didnt seem proper, by my own lights, 
to leave before it was finished. 

Soon after dark, shells from the Federal gunboats 
began landing in the woods. Our army was scattered 
all over the tableland, commands mingled past identi- 
fication and strayed soldiers roaming around asking 
for their outfits until finally they realized they would 
never find them in the darkness and they might as 
well bed down wherever they happened to be. I slept 
under a tree near Beauregard's tent, not far from 
Shiloh Chapel; it had been Sherman's tent the night 
before. Every fifteen minutes (for I timed them) two 



of the big shells landed with a terrible crash, one 
after another, fragments singing through the trees. 
Each of them seemed near enough for me to touch 
it with my hand. After a while, however, like all the 
others on that field, I became accustomed to them. 
I was dog tired. I slept. 

At dawn I reported to Colonel Jordan for duty 
with the staff. He told me to stand by. I had break- 
fast with him and the captured Federal general, 
Benjamin Prentiss. They had shared a bed in one 
corner of Sherman's tent the night before, and Pren- 
tiss had said: "You gentlemen have had your way 
today but it will be very different tomorrow. Youll 
see. Buell will effect a junction with Grant tonight 
and we'll turn the tables on you in the morning." No 
such thing, Colonel Jordan said, and showed him the 
telegram from a cavalry commander in North Ala- 
bama reporting that Buell's army was marching on 
Decatur. But Prentiss shook his head: "Youll see." 

Dawn had come through clearly now; the sun was 
pushing up through the misty trees behind us. As we 
moved toward the breakfast table (it was done in 
style by Beauregard's body servant, linen tablecloth 
and everything) the sound of musketry broke out in 
a sudden clatter toward the Landing. It swelled and 
was sustained, the rumble of cannon joining in. We 
stood listening. 



"There's Budl!" Prentiss cried. "Didnt I tell you 

He was right. The fighting was very different from 
that of the day before; it was clear from the first that 
Grant had been reinforced. Beauregard tried to do 
nothing more than hold him to gain time. He was 
hoping that Van Dorn would come with his twenty 
thousand troops from the Transmississippi. All morn- 
ing he watched for them, hoping against hope, hold- 
ing back from a general attack on a fresh force larger 
than his own, and looking over his shoulder from 
time to time. 

Around noon he thought he saw them. Through the 
trees, across a field on the right, there was a body of 
men dressed in white coats and firing into an advanc- 
ing line of Federals. Beauregard thought surely they 
were Van Dora's men; no troops in the Army of the 
Mississippi wore any such outlandish get-up, while 
Van Dorn's westerners would be apt to wear almost 
anything. But when he sent me through the woods 
and across the field to discover who they were, I saw 
they were the Orleans Guard battalion, many of them 
friends of mine. They had come into the battle wear- 
ing their parade uniforms of dress blue, which drew 
the fire of their fellow Confederates. Promptly they 
returned it, and when a staff officer galloped up and 
told them they were shooting at their friends, the 



colonel said angrily: "I know it, Sir, but dammit we 
fire on everybody who fires on us!" Finally, however, 
they tamed their coats inside-out, showing the white 
silk linings, and continued the battle that way. 

I rode back and reported to the general. He took 
it well enough; at least he gave up hoping for Van 
Dorn. About two oclock, when the army had fallen 
back to a position near Sherman's camps, Colonel 
Jordan said to him: "General, dont you think our 
troops are very much in the condition of a lump of 
sugar thoroughly soaked in water preserving its 
original shape, though ready to dissolve? Wouldnt it 
be judicious to get away with what we have?" 

Beauregard felt the same way about it, but he was 
in no hurry. He sat quietly on his horse, watching the 
fight, his red cap pulled low on his forehead. "I intend 
to withdraw in a few minutes," he said calmly. 

And sure enough, soon afterwards he sent couriers 
to the corps commanders to prepare for the with- 
drawal. By four oclock the action had been broken 
off. The three brigades of Breckinridge, or what was 
left of them, were posted along a stretch of high 
ground west of Shiloh Chapel. There was no pursuit. 

\ camped alone that night, on the same site we had 
used two nights ago when we were set to launch the 
attack. I was back where I started. I staked my horse 
in the little clearing, wrapped the blanket around me 



and used the saddle for a pillow. Signs of the old 
campfire were still there, a few charred sticks and a 
neat circle of ashes turned dark gray by the rain. It 
was quiet as quiet as the first night I slept there. The 
blanket had a smell of ammonia, more pleasant than 
otherwise. Soon after dark there was a let-up in the 
rain and a few stars came through. The moon rose, 
faint and far and old-gold yellow, riding a bank of 
clouds that scurried past it, ragged as ill-sheared sheep. 
Lying under that big, tattered sky and looking back 
over the last two days of battle, I saw that it had gone 
wrong for the very reason I had thought it most apt 
to go right. The main fault lay in the battle order I 
had helped to prepare, calling myself a latter-day 
Shakespeare because I had supplied the commas and 
semicolons, and ranking Colonel Jordan with Napo- 
leon because it seemed so beautiful. Attacking the way 
it directed three corps in line from creek to creek, 
one behind another, with the successive lines feeding 
reinforcements piecemeal into the line ahead 
divisions and regiments and even companies had be- 
come so intermingled that commanding officers lost 
touch with their men and found themselves leading 
strangers who never before had heard the sound of 
their voices. Coordination was lost all down the line. 
By midafternoon of the first day it was no longer an 
army of corps and divisions; it was a mass of men 



crowded Into an approximate battle formation. The 
one strong, concerted push left and center and right 
together which would have ended the battle Sunday 
evening, forcing the Federal army into the Tennessee, 
could not be made because coordination had been lost. 
At that stage it was no longer even a battle: it was a 
hundred furious little skirmishes, strung out in a 
crooked line. 

We but teach 

Bloody instructions, which being taught, return 
To plague tWinventor. 

There you go, I told myself, reincarnating Shake- 
speare again. 

I slid into unconsciousness so smoothly I couldnt 
tell where the spilt-milk thinking left off and the 
dreaming began. The pleasant pungent odor of am- 
monia was all around me. The last thing I remember, 
unless indeed it was something in the dream, was the 
sound of my horse cropping grass. Next thing I 
knew, Tuesday was dawning. 

Breckinridge held his troops in position; the rest of 
the army took the road for Corinth. I stayed behind, 
unattached till I joined a body of about two hundred 
Tennessee cavalry under Colonel N. B. Forrest, a tall, 
swarthy man with a black chin-beard and a positive 
manner. He was much admired for having brought 



his regiment out of Donelson instead of surrendering, 
but I knew men who, believing that an officer in our 
army should be a gentleman as well as a soldier, would 
have refused to serve under him because he had been 
a slave dealer in Memphis before the war. They also 
objected to a habit he had of using the flat of his saber 
and even his fists on his men when he became aroused. 
I was surprised to find him soft-spoken. 

When the other corps had gotten a start, Breckin- 
ridge commenced his withdrawal, leaving the cavalry 
to discourage pursuit. As a matter of fact there was 
no pursuit for us to discourage, yet. We stayed there 
an hour, Forrest's regiment and a few scattered 
troopers from Mississippi and Kentucky and Texas. 
Then we drew off, following in the rear of Breckin- 
ridge. So far we hadnt seen a single Federal. Perhaps 
it could be called a retreat doubtless Grant would 
call it that but it was a retreat without pressure. We 
fell back when we got good and ready. 

Two hours south of the battlefield, on the road to 
Monterey, we crossed a wide swampy hollow rising 
to a crest at the far side with a notch where the road 
went through. A branch of Lick Creek flowed through 
this boggy swale and trees had been felled on both 
sides of the stream, doubtless a logging project begun 
by some of the natives, then abandoned when the war 
began; they had finished the cutting but hadnt got 



started on the clearing and hauling. It was known as 
the Fallen Timbers, a mean-looking stretch of ground 
nearly a mile across, with jagged stumps and felled 
trees crisscrossed and interlaced with vines and knee- 
high weeds. I thought to myself what a mean, ugly 
place it would be to fight in. 

Forrest, however, had been watching for just such 
a position ever since we began the march. From time 
to time he would rein in his horse and look at the 
terrain, seeking a place to make a stand in case of 
attack. We couldnt believe that Grant, reinforced by 
fresh troops equal in numbers to his retiring enemy, 
would let us get away without some sort of pursuit, 
or at least the show of one, if for no other reason than 
to be able to report that he had chased us. The crest 
beyond the swale afforded an excellent defensive 
position. I could see that Forrest had already decided 
to form a line there (his eyes lit up the minute it 
came into sight) even before one of his scouts with 
the rear point, a man they called Polly I wondered 
if that was really his name rode up and reported a 
heavy column of cavalry and infantry coming hard 
down the road behind us. 

Forrest gave his horse its head, riding fast for the 
notch where the road rose out of the slough to pass 
over the crest, and we followed. There were between 
three and four hundred of us, half his own Tennessee 



troops, the rest gathered from three commands as- 
signed to him for rear-guard duty. In one group there 
were Texas rangers. They had lost their colonel in 
yesterday's fight and now were under Major Tom 
Harrison, lanky men wearing high-heeled boots, the 
rowels of their spurs as big and bright as silver dollars. 
Colonel Wirt Adams had half a hundred Mississip- 
pians, wild-looking in checkered shirts and a crazy 
assortment of wide-brimmed hats. They appeared to 
have been engaged in a six-month contest to see who 
could grow the fiercest beard. Captain John Morgan 
led a handful of Kentuckians. They were soberly 
dressed and riding superior horses. The captain him- 
self was tall and fair-faced. With his delicate hands 
and waxed mustache, he looked as neat and cool as if 
he had seen no fighting. We went through the notch 
at a canter, and Forrest soon had us spread out in a 
position along the crest. 

Then we saw the Federals, a brigade of them with 
a regiment of cavalry attached, strung out in approach- 
march formation on the road beyond the Fallen 
Timbers. They must have seen us almost as soon as 
we saw them, for the point signaled danger and the 
whole blue mass pulled up in a halt on the slope giving 
down to the creek. There was a delay while an officer 
on a big gray horse rode forward a ranker, for he 



had Ms staff in tow and sat there studying us with 
his field glasses. 

It didnt take long. He soon put the glasses back in 
their case, gave some instructions, and the brigade 
began to deploy for action. One regiment was thrown 
forward as a skirmish line, the cavalry backing them 
up and guarding their flanks. The remainder of the 
brigade was massed in attack-formation two or three 
hundred yards in the rear* The blare of the bugle 
reached us faintly from across the swale. They came 
on, looking good according to the manual. 

That was when Forrest gave me my first lesson in 
his kind of tactics, and it had nothing to do with the 
manual. I had heard something about his unorthodox 
methods of fighting; I had even been told that bold- 
ness was the basis of his success he fought "by ear/' 
they said. But nothing I'd heard had led me to expect 
him to accept battle with a whole brigade of Yank 
infantry, when all he had to oppose them was three 
hundred and fifty unorganized cavalrymen, most of 
them frazzled from seven days on the go, including 
two days of steady fighting. 

I thought to myself, Surely he's not going to have 
us stay here. Surely he doesnt expect us to hold them. 

They appeared small, automaton-like, as they 
picked their way over and around the fallen trees, 
lifting their knees to keep their feet from getting 



tangled in the vines. By die time they were halfway 
across, some on this side of the stream, some yet on 
the other, their line had lost all semblance of order 
they could hardly have been more disorganized if 
we had opened on them with artillery. I looked over 
toward the notch and saw Forrest giving orders to his 
bugler. The sound of the horn rang out. Just as I was 
thinking, 'Surely he cant expect us to hold this ridge 
against a whole brigade/ the bugle was blaring the 
charge and Forrest put spurs to his horse; he was lead- 
ing the way. He was obeying his instinct for never 
standing to receive an attack when he had a chance 
to deliver one. 

One minute I was expecting to be told to retire, 
and the next the bugle was blaring the charge. For a 
moment I mistrusted my ears. It caught me so unpre- 
pared I was still sitting there with my month dropped 
open, reins lax in my hands, when the line of horse- 
men surged forward, galloping down the slope. I 
finally caught up, the hoofs drumming like thunder, 
the horses breathing hoarse, the men all yelling. The 
Texans had dropped the reins onto their horses' necks 
and were going into the charge with both hands free, 
one for the saber, the other for the revolver. The 
checkered-shirt Mississippians carried shotguns across 
their thighs, whiskers blowing wild in the wind. 



Forrest was fifty yards out front, standing in the 
stirrups and swinging a saber. 

Most of the skirmishers had begun to run before 
we hit them, scrambling among the fallen trees and 
tripping over the vines* Those who stood were 
knocked sprawling by a blast from revolvers and shot- 
guns fired at twenty paces. I caught a glimpse of 
Forrest hacking and slashing, riding them down. His 
saber looked ten feet long; it flashed and glinted. All 
around me horses were tripping and falling, crashing 
and thrashing in the underbrush, snorting and whinny- 
ing with terror. We had scattered the skirmishers, but 
Forrest didnt stop. He rode on, still standing and 
brandishing the saber, charging the Federal cavalry 
behind the skirmishers. They were in complete dis- 
order even before we struck them, some wheeling 
their mounts toward the rear, others pressing toward 
the front, all panicky, firing their carbines in the air. 
It was the wildest craziest melee a man could 
imagine, one of those things you would have to see 
to believe. But it was true, all right, and I was in the 
very middle of it 

That was when my horse went down, struck in 
the knee of the off foreleg by a wild shot Union or 
Confederate, Lord knows which and before I even 
had time to think what was happening, the whole 
front end of him broke down and I went sailing over 



his head. I landed on my chest, spread-eagle; my wind 
went out with a rush. I got on my hands and knees, 
trying to breathe and trying to breathe, but no breath 
would come. My breathing apparatus had been 
knocked out of action. I was hoping for someone to 
give me a whack on the back (Rebel or Yank or even 
one of the horses: I didnt care) when I looked up and 
saw something that made me forget that breathing had 
anything to do with living. 

Forrest was still out front and he was still charging. 
He had broken the skirmish line, scattered the 
cavalry, and now he was going after the main body, 
the remainder of the brigade, which stood in solid 
ranks to receive the charge. The trouble was, he was 
charging by himself. Everyone else had reined in 
when the cavalry scattered; they saw the steady 
brigade front and turned back to gather prisoners. 
But not Forrest, He was fifty yards beyond the 
farthest horseman, still waving that saber and crying 
"Charge! Charge!" when he struck the blue infantry 
line, breaking into it and plunging through the ranks. 
They closed the gap behind him. He was one gray 
uniform, high on his horse above a sea of blue. I 
could hear the soldiers shouting, "Kill him!" "Kill 
the goddam rebel!" "Knock him off his horse!" 

Then Forrest saw what had happened and began 
to haul on the reins, trying to turn back toward his 



own men. But as the horse wheeled, lashing out with 
its hoofs while Forrest slashed with his saber, I saw 
one of the soldiers a big heavy-set corporal shove 
the muzzle of his rifle into the colonel's hip and pull 
the trigger. The force of the ball lifted Forrest side- 
ways and clear of the saddle, but he regained his seat 
and held onto the reins, the horse still kicking and 
plunging and Forrest still hacking and slashing. 

He was facing our lines by then, clearing a path 
with his saber, and as he canie out of the mass of blue 
uniforms and furious white faces, he reached down 
and grabbed one of the soldiers by the nape of the 
neck, swung him onto the crupper of his horse, and 
galloped back to our lines, using the Federal as a 
shield against the bullets fired after him. When he was 
out of range he flung the soldier off, the man's head 
striking one of the jagged stumps with a loud crack, 
and rode up to where we were waiting. I discovered 
that my breath had come back I was breathing short 
and shallow from excitement. 

That was the end of the fighting. The ball that 
wounded Forrest was the last that drew blood in the 
battle of Shiloh. The repulse at the Fallen Timbers 
put an end to whatever desire the Union army may 
have had for pursuit. From the crest where we had 
begun our charge we watched them collect their dead 



and wounded and turn back the way they had come. 
That was the last we saw of them, 

Out of the group of prisoners taken here, I heard 
one tefl a questioner that he was from Sherman's 
division and that the officer we had watched while 
he studied the field with his glasses was Sherman him- 
self, I was afoot then, and one of the Tennessee 
troopers let me ride behind him. We caught up with 
the column on the Corinth road and doubled it a 
ways until the horse began to fag and I got down. It 
was shank's mare for me from there on in. 

Having seen Sherman face to face that way even 
if I had not recognized him at the time I kept 
remembering the crazy notion I had had, while going 
to sleep the night before the battle, about capturing 
him and making him admit he was wrong about what 
he'd said that Christmas Eve a year and three months 
ago, at the Louisiana State Military Academy; he was 

That year I had the measles and couldnt go home 
for the holidays. It was gloomy in the big infirmary 
with all the other cadets away enjoying turkey and 
fireworks, so as soon as I got better though I still 
wasnt allowed to get up and had to keep the shades 
drawn Sherman had me moved into the spare bed- 
room in his quarters. The place had a strong odor of 
niter paper, which he burned for his asthma. I would 



come awake in the night hearing him cough. He was 
about twenty pounds underweight and we all thought 
he was in consumption. 

That Christmas Eve he had supper in his sitting 
room with Professor Boyd, a Virginian who taught 
Latin and Greek. The door was ajar and I could see 
them sitting in front of the fire, enjoying their after- 
supper cigars. Presently a servant came in with a news- 
paper which had arrived from town. Sherman had his 
back to me, less than a dozen feet away, and when 
he spread the paper I saw the headline big and black: 
South Carolina had seceded, voted herself out of the 

He read it rapidly. Then he tossed the paper into Mr 
Boyd's lap and walked up and down the room while 
the professor read it. Finally he stopped pacing and 
stood in front of Mr Boyd, shaking a bony finger in 
his face, addressing him as if he had the whole South 
in the room. "You people of the South dont know 
what you are doing," he said. "This country will be 
drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will 
end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civiliza- 

tion. n 

He resumed his pacing, still talking. "You people 
speak so lightly of war. You dont know what youre 
talking about. War is a terrible thing!" He reached the 
end of the room and came back, still talking. "You mis- 



take, too, the people of the North, They are a peace- 
able people but an earnest people, and they will fight 
too they are not going to let this country be de- 
stroyed without a mighty effort to save it. Besides, 
where are your men and appliances of war to con- 
tend against them? The North can make a steam 
engine, locomotive or railway car; hardly a yard of 
cloth or a pair of shoes can you make. You are rush- 
ing into war with one of the most powerful, in- 
geniously mechanical and determined people on earth 
right at your doors/' He stopped and frowned. 

"You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and 
determination are you prepared for war. In all else 
you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start 
with. At first you will make headway, but as your 
limited resources begin to fail shut out from the 
markets of Europe as you will be your cause will 
begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, 
they must see that in the end youll surely fail/* 

He made another turn at the end of the room, his 
hands clasped beneath his coattail. As he came back 
I saw the firelight glisten on the tears in his beard; 
they sparkled like jewels hung in the russet whiskers. 

The memory of Sherman pacing the floor, saying we 
were bound to fail, stayed with me constantly through 
the first year of the war. It rose in my mind while I 
was joining up, during the heart-breaking attempt to 



hold the shaky line that snapped at Bowling Green 
and Donelson, during the long retreat from Kentucky 
into Mississippi, and during the march to battle be- 
tween those two creeks on the tableland above Pitts- 
burg Landing. He was the first American I ever heard 
refer to the cause of constitutional liberty as a bad 
one: I knew he was wrong there, I could discount 
that. But some of the other things the threat of 
blockade, for instance, the comparison of our mechan- 
ical powers and resources were not so easily set 

It was not until the charge at the Fallen Timbers 
that I found the answer, the oversight in his argument. 
He hadnt mentioned Forrest or men like Forrest, men 
who did not fight as if odds made the winner, who 
did not necessarily believe that God was on the side 
of the big battalions, who would charge a brigade 
with half a regiment of weary men and send that 
brigade stumbling back to its tents demoralized and 
glad to be let alone. The army that had Forrest and 
would use him could afford to put its trust in some- 
thing beside mechanical aptitude or numbers. 

This was the answer to all he had said, and it made 
my future certain. I said goodbye to staff work, the 
placing of words on paper where they looked good 
and played you false, and determined that when I got 
back to Corinth I would get myself another horse and 



enlist under Forrest, commissioned or not. Or If It 
turned out that Forrest did not recover from the 
wound he had received that day (which seemed likely ) 
I would enlist under someone as much like him as 
possible Wirt Adams, say, or John Morgan. \ was 
through with visions of facing Sherman In Ms tent 
and forcing him at pistol point to admit that he was 
wrong. The time to face him down would be after 
the war, when no pistol would be needed and the fact 
could speak for Itself. 

It was a load lifted from my brain I was like a 
man long troubled by a bad dream who suddenly dis- 
covers he can sleep without its return* Instead of being 
a prophecy, as I had feared, the things Sherman said 
that Christmas Eve were a goad, a gauntlet thrown 
down for me to pick up. I hoped he would last the 
war so I could tell him. 

These things were in my mind as \ traveled south 
on the Corinth road, first on horseback behind the 
Tennessee trooper, then trudging along In boots that 
got tighter and tighter across the Instep. They had 
been made for me by Jeanpris Brothers in New 
Orleans and they were strictly for riding. When I had 
slit them and rejoined the column they felt fine at 
first, but soon the rain began. I started to fag. The 
boots got worse than ever; it was like walking on 
pinpoints. Holding onto the tailgate of the wagon was 



a help. My feet did not touch the ground as long that 
way, it seemed, and they no longer had to propel 
my body forward. All they had to do was swing one- 
two one-two with the puM of the mules, the rhythm 
of it washing all else out of my mind until I began to 
remember General Johnston and the way he died at 
high tide of the battle. 

"It dont hurt much, Captain/' the boy said, "I just 
cant lift it." 

Then it was late afternoon, the rain coming slow and 
steady, not really unpleasant once you were all the way 
wet, provided you were tired enough not to complain 
which I was or had something else hurting you 
enough to keep your mind off the rain which I had. 
Both sides of the road were littered with equipment 
thrown away by soldiers and by teamsters to lighten 
their loads: extra caissons and fifth wheels abandoned 
by the artillerymen when their horses got too weak 
to haul them, bowie knives and Bibles and playing 
cards which some of the men had managed to hold 
onto all the way to the fight and through the fighting, 
and occasional stragglers sitting beside the road with 
their heads on their knees, taking a breather. 

As twilight drew in, the wind veered until it came 
directly out of the north, whistling along the boughs 
of roadside trees. Thunder rumbled and the rain 
was like icy spray driven in scuds along the ground. 
It grew dark suddenly, not with the darkness of 


night but with the gathering of clouds, a weird, eerie 
refulgence. Thunder pealed and long zigzags of light- 
ning forked down, bright yellow against the sky. The 
air had a smell of electricity; when I breathed it came 
against my tongue with a taste like brass. The rain 
turned to sleet, first powdery, almost as soft as snow, 
then larger and larger until it was hail, the individual 
stones as large as partridge eggs, plopping against the 
mud and rattling against the wagon bed with a clatter- 
ing sound like a stick being raked along a picket fence. 
Within an hour it was two inches deep everywhere, 
in the fields, on the roofs of cabins, and in the wagons 
where the wounded lay. 

We crossed the state line, entering Mississippi again. 
The storm had passed by then, the worst of it, and 
what was left of daylight filtered through. The coun- 
tryside was strange and new, all white and clean except 
for the muddy puddles. On a rail fence beside the 
road a brown thrasher sat watching the column go 
past, and for some reason he singled me out, the 
steady yellow bead of his eye following me, the long 
bill turning slowly in profile until I came abreast: 
whereupon he sprang away from the rail with a single 
quick motion, his wings and narrow tail the color of 
dusty cinnamon, and was gone. 

In the wagon the wounded were mostly too sore 
to brush the sleet and hail away, or perhaps they had 
reached a stage where they didnt care. They lay with 


it piled between their legs and in their laps. It filled 
the wrinkles in their uniforms so that the angry red 
of their wounds stood out sharp against its whiteness. 
Up front, sitting with his back to the driver, there 
was a man whose face I avoided. His jaw had been 
shot away but his tongue was still there; it hung 
down on his throat like a four-in-hand tie. 

The boy who had lost an arm was better now, as 
if the gusts of rain and sleet and hail had cleared his 
mind. Above the circles of pain and fatigue, his eyes 
were bright. He had begun to look around, first at 
the ones in the wagon with him, then at the others 
walking alongside. Facing me over the tailgate he 
suddenly seemed to realize where he was, that the 
column was heading for Corinth. He wet his lips and 
looked at me. For the first time, except for the 
raving, he spoke. "Lieutenant . . ." His voice was weak; 
he tried again. "Lieutenant ..." 


"Lieutenant did we get whupped?" 

I said I supposed they would call it that. He sort of 
shrank back into himself, as if this was what he had 
expected, and did not speak again. It was night now 
and the stars were out, though the moon had not risen. 
My boots made a crunching sound in the sleet. Soon 
the lamps of Corinth came into sight, and along the 
roadside there were women with hot coffee. 



Historical characters in this book speak the words 
they spoke and do the things they did at Shiloh. Many 
of the minor incidents also occurred, even when 
here they are assigned to fictional persons; I hope the 
weather is accurate too. This was made possible by 
the records left by men who were there in the 
memoirs of Grant and Sherman, in the series of articles 
collected under the title Battles and Leaders of the 
Civil War, and particularly in the reports of officers, 
forwarded through channels and collected in Volume 
X of The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the 
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 
There you hear the live men speak. 

General Johnston's biography, written by his son 
William Preston Johnston and published by Appleton 
in 1878, remains the consummate study of Shiloh. It 
was this book which first drew my interest and it was 



this book to which I returned most often for infor- 

Section Five is based in part on a paper, "Forrest 
at Shiloh," read by Major G. V. Rambaut before the 
Confederate Historical Society of Memphis and pub- 
lished in the 19 January 1896 Commercial Appeal. 
Robert Selph Henry's biography of Forrest, published 
by Bobbs-Merall in 1944, contributed much to this 
section as well as to others. 

The two best modern studies of the battle are 
found in Lloyd Lewis' Sherman: Fighting Prophet 
(Harcourt, Brace, 1932) and Stanley F. Horn's The 
Army of Tennessee (Bobbs-Merrill, 1941) I have 
drawn on both. 

Authorities at Shiloh National Military Park gave 
me the run of the battlefield, surely one of the best 
preserved in the world, and were invaluable in locating 
the scenes of action. Also I think no one who 
studies our Civil War should make a list of acknowl- 
edgments without mentioning the photographs of 
Mathew Brady and the writings of Douglas Southall 




Although he now makes his home in Memphis, Ten- 
nessee, SHELBY FOOTE comes from a long line of 
Mississippians. He was bom in Greenville, Mississippi, 
and attended school there until he entered the Uni- 
versity of North Carolina. During World War II he 
served in the European theater as a captain of field 
artillery. In addition to Shiloh, he has written four 
other novels Tournament, Follow Me Down, Love 
in a Dry Season and Jordan County and is now at 
work on a sixth, September September. He was 
awarded three Guggenheim fellowships in the twenty- 
year course of writing his monumental three-volume 
history The Civil War: A Narrative /. Fort Sumter 
to Perryville; II. Fredericksburg to Meridian; III. Red 
River to Appomattox.